It’s been a very different few months at Highland Hospice as we have dealt with changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The restriction on visiting numbers has been tough for patients and relatives. Currently each patient can have two visitors, who must come in one at a time and can come from a maximum of six people nominated by the patient.
We have seen is a huge increase in the use of technology for video chats with friends and family – something that very few of our patients would have been confident with in the past. We are also using technology for staff meetings in order to reduce unnecessary gatherings, and the flexibility that comes with that is definitely an advantage that we will look at sustaining.
With day patients unable to visit the Hospice because of lockdown, our Day Therapy Unit was also forced to adapt. The key message highlighted over the months was that we needed to develop more of a community-based approach, with support available to all patients wherever they live in the Highlands. This prompted the team to change the name of the service from Day Therapy to the Community Support Team. As with in-patients, the use of technology has further shown how we can extend our reach.
While we will continue to serve our existing patients in the Inverness area, we will also be able to work closely with other Highland Hospice services and organisations who work with our communities. People who require palliative care should be able to receive this in their own home, no matter where that is in the Highlands, with a tailored programme depending on their individual needs.
Our Zoom-based art class, social group and women’s group have been well received and can be offered to any referred patient within Highland. Although our clients certainly miss face-to-face contact, technology has its positives. For example, a patient may be too poorly to leave their house but can still attend a group video session. Individuals are free to participate without video, and they can join or leave sessions as and when they like. We now have a bank of tablets that we are able to loan our patients, and they are now confident enough to use these to keep in touch with friends and family members too.
People really have gone above and beyond to support us at this difficult time, which has helped offset some of the revenue lost over the past few months. The future is worrying as we are highly unlikely to see such exceptional fundraising repeated or receive further government grants. We need support now more than ever, as sadly we have no idea when our fundraising events, which provide so much of our income, will be able to resume.