VNAs of Vermont Celebrate Home Care and Hospice Month

November is Home Care and Hospice Month, a time to celebrate the work of home health and hospice agencies. Usually it’s an opportunity to remind the public about the critical role home health and hospice agencies play in “normal” times—providing high quality health care at home, preserving the independence of individuals who would otherwise be in nursing homes and supporting individuals and their loved ones at the end of life. 

This November, I’d like to highlight the role of home health and hospice agencies in the pandemic response. It’s been an honor to watch home health and hospice agencies serve Vermonters throughout the pandemic—including people who are known to be COVID-19 positive. 

People who are attracted to careers in home health and hospice are usually action-oriented problem solvers. They have to be. Care in people’s homes is unpredictable and it’s usually solo work. Between the physical space, family members and pets, many of my members are fond of saying, “you never know what’s on the other side of the door.” Those qualities have served them well in this crisis and ensured that home health and hospice has been there for Vermonters. 

In order to provide essential services, agencies had to quickly set up new systems—to screen patients before visits, keep staff up to date on safety recommendations that kept changing, re-configure scheduling procedures to ensure staff didn’t go from homes of people known to have COVID-19 to other homes in a single shift. They managed PPE shortages – sometimes by making face shields on 3-D printers or from parts at their kitchen tables. They developed strategies for safely putting on and taking off PPE where the only “locker room” is a personal car. The effort has been astonishing to watch.

Yet for all the internal focus to reconfigure their own work, agencies also stepped up as essential community partners. They provided staff to serve people in hotels reconfigured for homeless Vermonters, pledged staff to expand the hospital capacity in the event of a surge, held flu clinics, assisted long-term care facilities facing staff shortages because of outbreaks and, most recently, partnered with the Department of Health to expand community COVID-19 testing,

The best way to express our gratitude to health care workers across Vermont is to strictly follow the Governor’s recent orders prohibiting social gatherings. This November, perhaps more than ever, the heroic caregivers that work for my members deserve recognition for the central role they play in our Vermont health care system and in homes across the nation.