End-of-life care during COVID-19: opportunities and challenges for community nursing
Ben Bowers, Kristian Pollock, Crystal Oldman, Stephen Barclay
Providing person-centred end-of-life care at home and in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging. These challenges extend beyond the interpersonal communication barriers created by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for infection control. Visors and facemasks make it harder to hear soft voice tones or read facial expressions, which are key tools in empathetic communication. Traditional models of care, based on predominantly face-to-face multidisciplinary clinical consultations, have been radically overhauled in the UK and other countries worse affected by the pandemic (Antunes et al, 2020; Costantini et al, 2020). The unprecedented rapid adoption of technology, including video and telehealth consultations, alongside virtual ward rounds and online team meetings, reduces infection risks and may have the advantage of enabling faster access to clinical advice (Powell et al, 2020). However, concerns that health professional home visits would reduce has led to an increased focus on care provision by family members, including, potentially, the administration of end-of-life care medications (Antunes et al, 2020; Johnson et al, 2020). The pandemic has imposed massive stress on care resources, and the changes in healthcare service delivery after COVID-19 look set to be substantial (Antunes et al, 2020; Kasaraneni, 2020). New models of care delivery have also created opportunities for nurses supporting people in community settings to develop their role and skills.