How Encompass Health hospice volunteers are providing support during COVID-19

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Encompass Health hospice volunteers with Easter gift bags they created for patients
Encompass Health hospice junior volunteers Ashlyn Parker and Savanna Barclay created Easter gift bags for patients as a way to stay connected to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospice patients and their loved ones rely heavily on volunteers for additional support and comfort during the final stages of a patient’s life. However, their ability to do so at this time has been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When hugs and handshakes are not allowed and visits are restricted, Encompass Health hospice volunteers from all over the country are finding creative ways to show they care not only for their patients and their families, but also for Encompass Health staff.

“We believe that volunteers are truly the heart of hospice,” said Pat Patterson, regional president of hospice operations at Encompass Health. “The comfort and companionship they provide to patients and their loved ones is invaluable.” 

Medicare requires that volunteers provide at least 5% of the total patient care hours a hospice patient receives. Due to the current pandemic and social distancing restrictions, the U.S. center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently waived several hospice regulations, including the 5% volunteer requirement. 

Even so, the Company’s hospice volunteers continue to support staff and patients.

While that support typically comes in the form of taking walks with patients or reading with them by the bedside, it’s now being offered in more creative ways. 

For example, in less than a week, Encompass Health hospice volunteers mobilized a nationwide support system that spans across 83 hospice branches and 30 states to sew masks for staff members as well as patients and their families. 

Volunteers received donations from craft stores, physician offices and sewing groups across America to create the masks. 

“When our clinicians reported that the mask strings were irritating their ears due to constant use, our volunteers even devised a brilliant button system that allows the mask to be worn off the ears while still being appropriately secure,” said Nichol Westendorf, director of hospice support services at Encompass Health. 

Volunteers are also finding creative ways to connect with patients and their families.

Volunteers in McComb, Mississippi created Easter goody bags for hospice patients. Encompass Health clinicians were then able to deliver the goodies to patients during their skilled visits. 

Many volunteers are also making hand-painted cards with personalized notes to let them know they are still cared for even from a distance. 

Despite the fact that they can’t physically interact with their patients, these volunteers remain dedicated to serving patients and their families.

For more information on becoming a hospice volunteer at Encompass Health, click here

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