Together, apart: how families are connecting with loved ones in the hospital

May 13, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

The visitor restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic have likely led to some broken hearts, as families are kept from visiting hospitalized loved ones for safety reasons.

But even if you can’t physically be with your loved one in the hospital, our Patient Experience team is working hard to ensure you can still connect.

“We’re doing everything we can to help our patients and families feel like they’re not alone,” says Doug Johnson, Patient Experience Officer for Edward-Elmhurst Health. “We’re helping them stay connected.”

In one case, a nurse helped set up a call between a patient and her sister and niece at home while the patient was being extubated. As soon as her breathing tube was removed, the patient was able to see the familiar faces of her family.

“The first thing she said was ‘I love you,’” says Megan Sulich, Patient Experience Manager at Elmhurst Hospital.

The current visitor restrictions are in place to keep everyone safe, including the people who would be visiting, Johnson says.

While COVID-19 precautions are keeping most visitors out of the hospital at this time, there are some situations where exceptions are being made, such as for patients entering labor and delivery, pediatric patients or patients nearing end of life.

But even when visitors are allowed, those exceptions are being made on a case-by-case basis and only when it can be done safely.

Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Patient Experience team offers four ways to help families stay connected with their loved one in the hospital:

  • Piece of Home. Families can bring in photos, small mementos or personal items (no food please) that are special to the patient and the items will be delivered directly to the patient’s room. In one two-week span, a total of 229 items were dropped off for delivery to patient rooms. At Edward Hospital, items can be dropped at the North or South entrances. At Elmhurst Hospital, items can be dropped off at the East entrance.
  • Peace of Mind. To help ease concerns, families are given contact information for the Patient Experience team to have an extra point of contact while their loved one is in the hospital. Medical updates are provided through the nursing staff, but other questions can be directed to the Patient Experience team at 630-527-5725 for patients at Edward Hospital and 331-221-0196 for patients at Elmhurst Hospital, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Comfort Calls. Members of the Patient Experience team are making daily calls to  patients, particularly those with COVID-19 and in isolation. The additional contact point for the patient helps make sure needs are being met. Similar calls are placed with family members. In one recent week, 266 comfort calls were placed to patients or family members to help them share how they’re feeling, Johnson says.
  • Video Chats. The Patient Experience team uses iPads to connect patients with their families through video calls. The calls can be requested by the family or the patient and are set up on an individual basis throughout the week. Typically, the calls last about 15 minutes.

Sulich says the video calls are an option for patients who cannot make the calls themselves or do not have access to that feature on their own cell phones. Sulich tries to schedule the calls at a time when it’s most meaningful for the patients.

She says the video calls also help nurses and other medical staff connect with the families and gives the families a chance to see what is happening with their loved one. With the many families navigating COVID-19 and its unknowns, the opportunity for families and patients to see each other, even if they cannot be together, helps ease their concerns.

“As we all navigate the unknown, we are creating safe, seamless and personal experiences to help our patients and their families feel connected and not alone,” Johnson says.

To reach the Patient Experience team at Edward Hospital, please call 630-527-5725. Call 331-221-0196 to reach the Patient Experience team at Elmhurst Hospital.

See the latest updates to our visitor policy.

Not sure if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19? Use our coronavirus Symptom Checker.

Get more information about coronavirus from Healthy Driven Chicago.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.

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