Time to talk: Palliative care and coronavirus

Time to talk: Palliative care and coronavirus

As we face a devastating global pandemic, let’s not lose sight of the need for communication and compassion.

At Alignd, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to help people live their best lives right up until the last moment. The COVID-19 crisis cuts deeply, not just because of the spectre of wide-spread illness and death, but also because the global response goes to the heart of what it means to be human. How do we sustain human connection when we are in isolation? Is preventing contagion more important than holding the hand of a loved one as they leave this world? How do we mark rites of passage if we cannot gather for funerals and wakes?

We don’t have the answer to all these questions, but we do know that the things that palliative care concerns itself with are deeply relevant. As human beings all over the world are being asked to look death in the eye and to ask questions about the trade-offs we are willing to make, the time to put together an advance care plan is now. Helping your family to understand your healthcare preferences is an act of profound kindness.

“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on.” – Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement

As health systems around the world take strain, we have to protect those at the frontline. The use of digital solutions to connect teams of health workers, like the Signapps platform, has never been more relevant and life-saving. But we must remember the humanity underpinning the numbers. The scale of what we face shouldn’t take away the need for patience, communication and compassion: central tenets of the palliative care approach.

We hope that the measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus help to ease the pressure on our health system. But we need to be ready for a scenario where ventilators and ICU beds are in short supply requiring hospitals to triage cases. How will this be communicated and what measures are in place to support care in the home setting? Our colleagues at Palprac have put together guidance for home-based palliative care for those patients who either choose not to be referred to hospital or who do not have access to hospital. The Alignd network of palliative care providers and our remote access solution for far-flung patients is ready to support the health system, patients and their families wherever possible.

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