Helping Patients Cope with Loneliness while Social Distancing
Most of us feel the need to connect during this time of social distancing due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic; the same is true—maybe even to a greater degree—for our patients. Our patients’ feelings of loneliness while social distancing may be affected by having less or no in-person visits with family and friends—due to the patient being in a high-risk group for becoming infected with the virus—and by not being allowed to have visitors in centers. This post provides examples of useful responses to patients and their care partners when they show anger or frustration at the no-visitor policy. Also provided in this post are some tips for how to connect with your patients during this pandemic.
Some patients and their care partners may be upset and show frustration with the no-visitor policy at dialysis centers. Below is a five-part response that may be useful to follow in this situation:
- Thank the care partner for bringing the patient to his or her appointment and being honest about their feelings.
- Show empathy toward the care partner by acknowledging the difficulty in not being allowed to accompany the patient as they normally have in the past.
- Explain the why behind the policy by mentioning that the center is following guidance from the CDC in not allowing visitors and the staff has the priority of protecting the safety of all patients.
- Perform an emotional root cause analysis by asking the care partner what they are most concerned about.
- Try to address their concern or put their mind at ease by promising the care partner, for example, that you will personally check on the patient during treatment.
As an essential health care provider, your interaction with patients may be the only or one of the few that they have in person now. Therefore, you have the opportunity to help them feel more connected during their visit to the center by taking any or all of the following actions:
- Give patients a super warm welcome right as they enter—before you hand them a mask.
- Greet them and smile—with your eyes—during screening or when you first see them.
- Use the 30 seconds of temperature taking to connect with them by asking about their weekend or simply saying “Happy Friday!”
- Before they leave, thank them for going through this check and/or for wearing their mask.
As mentioned in our previous blog post on empathy, in order to be present for your patients and to help them feel that you genuinely care, make sure that you are practicing good self-care. Remember that we are all in this together and like you, our patients want to feel that they are not alone. Often, it is the small things that connect us and when you connect with your patients, you both may leave feeling better than you had earlier that day.
For behavioral health-related resources, including additional tips for patients on how to manage their loneliness while social distancing, visit DaVita.com/Coping.