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Pandemic is especially tough on hospice clients

Some are so sad they wonder why they bother living, Olds & District Hospice Society executive director says
MVT Mary Smith exec dir ODHS
Olds & District Hospice Society executive director Mary Smith. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — COVID-19 pandemic protocols are making the lives of people near the end of their life journey more depressing than ever, according to Olds & District Hospice Society executive director Mary Smith.

Hospice care focuses on making a person’s end of life journey as comforting as possible.

In her position, Smith visits many elderly people and hospice clients. The society has two hospice suites in the Olds Seasons Encore assisted living facility.

During an interview, Smith was asked how the clients she sees are coping with the fact that many of their friends and loved ones have been unable to see them up close, due to pandemic restrictions.

“My experience with the lockdown has been that without the visitors for dementia patients, that their disease seems to be progressing at a more rapid rate,” Smith said.

“We’ve also seen that people who have been locked in, away from their family members are experiencing more mental health crises. They don’t even know sometimes why they want to be alive anymore.

“Depression is sitting in and it creates more health problems physically and emotionally for the elderly clients that we are in contact with.”

Smith said clients she has visited have told her personally of their feelings. She described them as heartbreaking to hear.

"As the Hospice Society, we are just trying to get out to people to support them virtually, on the phone, connecting them with volunteers, trying to assist with technology so they can see their family members, just to ease some of that emotional burden,” she said.

“It is helping and we always want to do more and we wish we could, so we’re just constantly brainstorming ideas about how we can safely assist our clients and our community.”