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Some Say Allow Family Access to Dying Patients With COVID-19

Authors of editorial believe infection control, public health concerns, family-centered care can coexist

THURSDAY, July 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Allowing adult family member presence at the bedside of dying patients during COVID-19 is feasible, and could have multiple benefits, according to an editorial published online June 8 in Intensive Care Medicine.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to drastic changes in provision of intensive and end-of-life care for patients and their families, and that front-line physicians may feel unprepared and overwhelmed with the accompanying emotional responsibilities, Martha A.Q. Curley, Ph.D., R.N., from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and colleagues discuss an alternative pathway to prevent patients from dying alone.

The authors note that infection control, public health concerns, and family-centered care can coexist and urge reconsideration of adult family member presence at the bedside of patients, which can be accomplished safely. Family members would likely be motivated, grateful, and capable of involvement in their loved one's care with careful screening, preparation, and support; furthermore, family members would likely experience more positive grief resolution and less posttraumatic stress. Patients could be calmed by the presence of a familiar person, and family members could assist with comforting and care activities. This planning necessitates consideration of issues such as infection status, capability of upholding safe practices, and perceived benefit to the patient. Families that meet these criteria should be given this option.

"More than ever, it behooves us to facilitate loving relationships and genuine connections in our clinical worlds, as we continue to practice social distancing and isolation in our personal worlds," the authors write. "Dying alone, despite adhering to social distancing, should not be part of dying at all."

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