FRONT PAGE: End-Of-Life Care Program At UCLA Benefited Dying Patients And Loved Ones Despite COVID Restrictions

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

Newswise — A program offered by UCLA Health’s intensive care units is providing meaningful and compassionate support for dying patients and their families, despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

A study on the initiative was published in the journal Critical Care Explorations ,. It is the first to demonstrate empirically that a palliative-care program can be modified — or even expanded — during a pandemic. This could also serve as an example of how to improve end-of-life care in an era where infection control and visiting restrictions have created new challenges for health care professionals.

Researchers examined the types and number of wishes granted by UCLA Health’s 3 Wishes Program ,, which fulfills small, but important requests from dying patients and their family members. The study tracked 523 patients at six adult intensive care units, both at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as well as the UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center.

The program was launched in 2017, UCLA Health staff presented patients and their families mementos such as keychains that captured the patient’s fingerprints, frames of electrocardiograms, and sculptures of the entwined fingers of loved ones. They have arranged outdoor weddings and personal music performances, and commissioned volunteers to create paintings that honor patients’ interests and hobbies.

The research found that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, an average of 24.8 patients per month participated in the program during the period from March 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, up from 17.6 patients per month during the same period a year earlier. Patients who died in the UCLA medical centers during the pandemic were less likely to have relatives with them than patients who died before the pandemic. The study also found that they were more likely to have their post-mortem wishes fulfilled.

” The findings were both unexpected and heartwarming,” stated Dr. Thanh Nville, who is the medical director of 3 Wishes Program. “Despite the fact that patients who died in the ICU during the pandemic were less likely to have family by the bedside, the number of patients who participated in the 3 Wishes Program during the pandemic actually increased compared to before the pandemic.”

That suggests that UCLA Health staff, already dedicated to their patients’ well-being, took advantage of many opportunities to step up even more for patients and their families during the pandemic, Neville said.

“Having a loved one in the ICU with COVID-19 certainly put additional stress on families, but caring for these patients also took an emotional toll on ICU staff,” Neville said. “Participating in 3 Wishes gave health care workers the opportunity to do something positive for these families during a tragic situation — the staff were thankful to have a way to do more than just bear witness.”

Through the program, patients’ requests are fulfilled not by palliative care specialists, but by frontline nurses, licensed vocational nurses and doctors in the intensive care unit. You might think that making mementos is an extra responsibility in a busy time. But, we all decided to do so, wanted to make it happen, and offered to help,” Kristen Hjelmhaug (an intensive care nurse at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center) said. She has been involved in the 3 Wishes Program from its inception. These are small things, but very important emotionally. These are small things, but very important emotionally.”

The program’s value became even more obvious during the pandemic, when spiritual care providers and social workers were only able to visit with patients online, and while hospital policies governing patients’ visits with family members have been in flux. Some visits were banned during the study, others allowed only when patients were in imminent death. Other times, relatives were only permitted to visit for an hour and only then.

Hospital staff changed the way they dealt with patients’ requests to keep the program running during the pandemic. To allow physical distancing, serenades were held outdoors. Fingerprints used for mementos were first sterilized with UV radiation.

The 3 Wishes Program was inspired by a similar program at a Canadian hospital. Neville stated that it could be replicated for other medical facilities, and that there will be a growing demand for such programs.

” This end-of-life program is a positive for our patients and their families,” she stated. It grants providers in the ICU the desire to provide the best family-centered treatment possible, which can sometimes mean helping people end their lives with dignity and kindness

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