Crisis and Innovation: Medical Respite Care Providers Respond to COVID-19

Crisis and Innovation: Medical Respite Care Providers Respond to COVID-19

As HCH providers across the country work diligently to prepare for the spread of COVID-19, medical respite programs find themselves in a unique position. The purpose of medical respite care is to provide short-term residential care for people experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from illness on the streets or in shelter, but who are not sick enough to require hospitalization. In the wake of this pandemic, medical respite programs are reassessing their policies, procedures, and practices so they can expand their capacity and support the stressed hospital system even more than they already do.

In Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Boston, programs have implemented daily temperature checks and screenings for current medical respite clients and ongoing monitoring of symptoms. They are developing new workflows and staffing patterns to respond to positive screenings and the necessity of quarantining and isolation plans. This can be a challenge for some programs as they have a congregate setting. Programs are creating wards within their space specifically for COVID-19 positive clients. Additionally, they are staggering meals to decrease the number of people dining together, increasing janitorial services, and wiping down high-use surfaces and door handles every hour. They are also working to maintain a sense of normalcy within their daily practices to quell anxiety among clients.

For some programs, this means finding creative ways to provide services. Programs may not allow visitors currently, but they are encouraging clients to Skype or FaceTime with friends and family. They may not allow clients to come and go as they normally would, but they are connecting with external Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that their clients can participate in virtually. Programs are also working hard to protect and support their medical respite staff who are facing personal protection equipment shortages and concerns about infection as well. One of the strengths of medical respite care is its adaptability to the needs of the community, and the Council is hearing of innovative ways that programs across the country are rising to meet these needs.

Is your medical respite care program taking innovative steps to address this issue or in need of guidance? Please contact us to share your practices or to learn more about best practices. More resources on COVID-19 and people without homes—including our recent webinar on coronavirus and the HCH community—are available on our website.

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