SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Those battling life-threatening illnesses have had an extremely challenging time dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We really were hoping to travel and when you've got a year to live and you want to live it up, it's really heartbreaking to be stuck at home,” said Michelle Kendall, a local woman battling terminal cancer.
Many other clients at the Hospice of Santa Barbara are also living with weakened immune systems. This has resulted in a lengthy list of concerns for those affected.
"Social isolation, fear of being exposed and I would also say there is a loss of a support system which is their closest friends,” Hospice of Santa Barbara patient care services manager Tianna Swede said. “So that has been a challenge."
Facing unforeseen difficulties, HSB has adapted to this new normal while helping its clients navigate through these difficult times.
While their offices are temporarily closed for in-person visits, the entire staff is working harder than ever before. Thus far, HSB has spent over $22,000 to set up its 42 staff members to work from home.
"We've been working harder than we ever have,” Swede said. “We're full eight hour days, working from home, doing Zoom calls and check-ins."
Although they can’t see their patients face-to-face for the time being, they’re offering a telehealth model where clients can receive grief counseling through the phone or video chat services such as Zoom.
"We are also able to deliver groceries and medication and other necessary equipment to their homes,” Swede said. “Just not face-to-face visits, we'll leave it at their front door."
"It hasn't really been a problem to leave the house for such a long stretch of time,” Kendell said. “It's been pretty easy to manage that because we have a strong support network of people who are trying to support me."
Despite the stress and fear caused by the pandemic, HSB remains focused on caring for its clients.
"To keep them safe, to make them feel honored and make them feel that they have a support system that's there for them despite the challenges we're all facing,” Swede concluded.
response to the growing need to support the community, HSB now offers a comprehensive COVID-19 resource page on its website. It includes videos and articles by their community education staff consisting of dedicated experts, therapists and clergy.