Setting the Stage
The discussion of end of life care can often be a challenging, avoided, and uncomfortable topic. Having to anticipate one’s forthcoming death (whether that be someone you cherish or your own), learning to process this death healthily, and then taking adequate action can indeed be emotionally and mentally distressing. It is important to note that the concept of your life coming to an end is not an easy concept to grasp whatsoever. In theory, most of us are conscious of the fact that we will eventually cease to exist. Yet, it transforms into a more disturbing situation when you are suffering from a life-threatening illness and are being told that you only have a limited time to live (typically six months or less). Additionally, death has tremendous and far-reaching impacts on families, friends, and loved ones. Therefore, despite the morbid nature of end of life care, towns like Guilderland that have the proper facilities and resources, such as hospice care, can make the final stages of terminally ill patients’ and their loved ones’ more gratifying.
Available End of Life Care Resources in Guilderland: The Community Hospice
The Community Hospice on New Karner Road is a subgroup of the established St. Peter’s Health Partners. This local organization is one of the only places in the Guilderland-Albany area that offers palliative and hospice care. In essence, they open their arms to patients who may be transitioning into the last phase of their life, but also to any chronically/seriously sick patient who desires symptomatic treatment and pain relief. The palliative care services at Community Hospice are often provided in tandem with an ongoing curative treatment given by a medical practitioner. Furthermore, the Community Hospice emphasizes its role not to replace or push physicians or medical providers to the back burner, but rather to work alongside them or as their website explicitly states: “to work together with the patients’ other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.” To summarize, the Community Hospice team tackles patient care with a more holistic approach as opposed to a team working solely in the hospital setting. Furthermore, the Community Hospice considers itself a branched program in which they are willing to deliver services in practically any location: the household, a nursing home, the hospital, and the community that a patient is familiarized and comfortable with.
Their overall mission is to ensure that an individual nearing the end of their life can do so with the utmost satisfaction, compassion, comfort, and dignity. They also display genuine care for a patient’s family and loved ones through their numerous grieving/bereavement services. For instance, Camp Erin is a free weekend bereavement camp explicitly aimed at youth (ages 6-17) who have lost a loved one due to traumatic, illness-related, or natural causes. It is a program meant for children and youth to emotionally cope with significant losses while also participating in healthy, enjoyable activities. Thus, we can observe that the Community Hospice team understands the gravity of grief and, consequently, acts as a multifaceted program to support those who must endure this life obstacle.
Community Hospice: Through the Lens of Access
In terms of access to its services, the Community Hospice program highlights that it will never turn someone away or restrict them if they are financially incapable of paying for services. This program statement also implies that whether you are insured or uninsured, the Community Hospice and its resources are readily available for anyone who sincerely needs it. Therefore, their quality of openness and acceptance greatly augments the diversity of the patient populations admitted and guarantees that every individual is given a chance to a pleasant end of life experience. Because of this welcoming policy, the non-profit organization relies heavily on donations and monetary contributions to provide quality care to everyone, instead of worrying about logistical matters related to insurance or payments.
End of Life Care: The Hurdles Brought By COVID-19
Under the backdrop of coronavirus, visitation and in-person interaction have been severely restricted, especially when handling vulnerable patients such as in hospice or palliative care programs. Therefore, although the admitted patients have access to many resources, including exceptional medical staff and personnel, the pandemic has hindered access to their loved ones. In end of life and hospice care, communicating and remaining in touch with loved ones is critical in enhancing the richness of an admitted patient’s experience. According to the State Department of Health, nursing homes and hospice care facilities must still abide by the state policy: no visitations allowed until there have been 28 days with no documented coronavirus cases.
So, until there is a steady drop and a perpetuation of no COVID-19 cases in New York State, in-person visits will not be happening at the Community Hospice. On the bright side, virtual platforms such as FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Meets have allowed for some compensation. Seeing the faces of your family and friends and speaking to them through a screen is still better than nothing. The sad reality is that until coronavirus cases are controlled, this will be the only acceptable form of socialization for terminal and seriously ill patients.