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Hospice provider keeps families connected

Hospice provider keeps families connected

Program initiated during pandemic to assist patients


St. Croix Hospice in Grand Island is using electronic devices to connect loved ones with people whose lives are coming to an end.

St. Croix provides services to hospice patients, who may be in a long-term care facility, assisted living or in their homes.

Since the spring, the hospice organization has used Google Duo, Facetime and Zoom to allow family members, some of whom are far away, to communicate with patients.

But the video chats and phone calls have been used more during the pandemic. On Dec. 1, St. Croix formalized the program, which is called the InTouch Family Connection Program.

The effort also brings people together in-person. St. Croix helps provide personal protective equipment to families who are allowed to visit facilities to see the hospice patient.

St. Croix cares for the patients in conjunction with family members and the long-term care facility, assuming the person is no longer at home.

Patients do not stay at St. Croix Hospice. In addition to nurses and health care providers, the hospice organization furnishes social workers and chaplains.

“The end of life needs to be treated just as respectfully as the beginning of life,” said Cary Ummel, who is manager of clinical services at St. Croix in Grand Island.

The hospice organization also cares for the families who are dealing with the imminent death of a loved one, Ummel said.

During the pandemic, St. Croix has trained its clinical staff on the use of Google Duo. With the holidays approaching, the company wanted to formalize the program and “roll it out more broadly,” said Cate Pardo, the St. Croix public relations coordinator who lives in Oakdale, Minn.

Separation can take an emotional toll on patients and loved ones when the patient is at the end of life.

Ummel said it’s “vitally important” that family members and patients can communicate as much as possible at the end of life’s journey, especially now, when there are restrictions at long-term care facilities.

St. Croix has helped care for patients who had COVID-19.

“Pandemic restrictions are having a far-reaching impact on every aspect of our patients’ lives, including their mental well-being,” Mandy Cogswell, St. Croix Hospice’s chief clinical officer, said in a news release. The electronic tools are enhancing “emotional support for patients and families,” Cogswell said.

The St. Croix service area consists of Hall County and 13 surrounding counties.

In addition to Nebraska, St. Croix Hospice has branches in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

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