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More terminally ill patients suffering from COVID-19 and other illnesses are choosing to die at home rather than face the alarming prospect of saying goodbye to their loved ones from behind glass or online, according to a report.
“What we are seeing with COVID is certainly patients want to stay at home,” Judi Lund Person, vice president for regulatory compliance at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, told The Associated Press.
“They don’t want to go to the hospital. They don’t want to go to a nursing home,” she added.
Hospice organizations across the US are reporting that facilities are seeing double-digit percentage hikes in the number of patients being cared for at home.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, hospice workers cared for patients dying of a wide variety of conditions in long-term care facilities and, to a lesser extent, home settings.
Many families previously hesitated to pursue the die-at-home route because of the myriad logistical challenges, but things changed during the pandemic as people began working from home and had more time.
Families became more comfortable with home hospice knowing the alternative with lack of visitation at nursing facilities.
“What happened with COVID is everything was on steroids, so to speak. Everything happened so quickly that all of a sudden family members were prepared to care for their loved ones at home,” said Carole Fisher, president of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation. “Everything accelerated.”
“I have heard families say, ‘I can care for my aged mother now very differently than I could before because I am working from home,’” Fisher added. “And so there is more of a togetherness in the family unit because of COVID.”
Brian Simmons, a mortuary owner in Missouri, said he has been making more trips to homes to pick up bodies to be cremated and embalmed since the pandemic hit.
He said he understands why people are choosing to die at home after his own 49-year-old daughter died of COVID-19 just before Christmas at a hospital, where the family only got phone updates as her condition worsened.
“The separation part is really rough, rough rough,” Simmons said. “My daughter went to the hospital and we saw her once through the glass when they put her on the ventilator, and then we never saw her again until after she died.”