Emmanuel Hospice experiences growth during pandemic

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Sara Lowe Courtesy Emmanuel Hospice

Emmanuel Hospice announced it increased its team by 40% to better serve a 50% increase in patients since last fall.

Soon after COVID-19 made its arrival in West Michigan, the faith-based provider of hospice care saw a substantive increase in patients as facilities and physicians who might normally send a patient to the hospital first began turning to hospice care.

The shift was made so as not to overwhelm hospital teams or expose a medically fragile patient to a possible COVID-19 infection.

With the pandemic ongoing, Emmanuel Hospice began fall with nearly 30% more referrals compared to the same time in 2019. Referrals came from a variety of sources, including skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, personal contacts, hospitals, physicians, community agencies, rehab centers and other home health resources.

With more than 80 team members and growing, the organization is now serving more than 180 patients daily in Kent, Ottawa, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Allegan counties.

“Our growth is a testament to the fact that our approach to end-of-life care resonates with patients and families,” Emmanuel Hospice Executive Director Sara Lowe said. “Our team was able to pivot quickly to respond to COVID-19, keeping our patients, family and teams safe while still providing quality care during the pandemic.”

During the pandemic, the nonprofit launched a telehealth program to continue serving patients amid visitor restrictions in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It also created a YouTube channel featuring videos of staff and community members offering calming techniques, spiritual readings, songs, poetry, nature walks and more in an effort to bring its holistic approach to hospice care to patients and others in the community shut off from the outside world.

While many nonprofits halted their volunteer programs, Emmanuel Hospice found safe ways to engage volunteers. Some are having virtual visits with patients and their families via Zoom while others are making monthly bereavement phone calls to families, creating cards or completing weekly mailings and other sorting tasks from home.

“As our organization grows, we continue to expand efforts to ensure all team members feel safe, valued and supported,” Lowe said. “We are committed to maintaining our compassionate, person-centered approach to care for patients and families, as well as for our employees, donors, volunteers and board members who make the quality end-of-life care we offer possible.”

After being named one of West Michigan’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For earlier this year, Emmanuel Hospice recently was named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation.

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