Providing Support in a Pandemic

How COVID-19 has changed the way we work Chris3 

The Cancer Society Supportive Care Team has been working hard over the past month to ensure they maintain a high level of care despite the challenges of being in lockdown. We asked the Team Leader of our Southland Supportive Care Team, Chris Edwards, how she found working during the lockdown and how the Team has adapted to help their clients.

“Anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis is already living with a complete change of circumstances; emotionally, physically, socially and financially. The huge impact of this is difficult to put into words. With COVID-19 there have been more challenges due to increased fear, rapid changes to information, and just because we are living in such uncertain times.

No day is the same for the Supportive Care Team - you never know what you are going to deal with, listen to or be asked for. This is not new for us but with COVID-19 the stakes are higher as people are more anxious, have more questions, and it can be particularly hard to read a client’s needs when we are not able to meet face-to-face. Facial expressions and body language play a big part of our assessment of a patient’s needs and getting to know them.
Unfortunately for some, the reality is that treatment has been deferred and some routine tests are not available at this time. Understandably this creates anxiety. In these cases any decisions have been made under the careful assessment of the health professionals.

So much of our work during lockdown has been to find practical solutions, such as making contact with those who are living alone or rurally, and assessing their practical needs. There have also been many last-minute calls for clients to head to Dunedin for treatment requiring us to support them through the process remotely.
To keep in contact with clients we are trialling a weekly zoom support group meeting and sending out occasional group emails to our patients, being mindful that not everyone has email.

Overwhelmingly I have seen so much compassion and care among families, hospital staff, nurses, and administrators as well as a large number of the community who have been willing to help and support our patients while they continue to receive treatment. A special thanks go to Kevin and Sue of Dunedin Motel & Villas, Paul at Sahara Guesthouse & Motels, and Sharon and the crew at Cable Court Motel Dunedin. They have been especially supportive not only providing accommodation for our clients, but doing shopping and cooking for our patients while having treatment in Dunedin.”

The Otago & Southland Supportive Care Team would like to thank volunteers, staff, clients, our supporters and everyone who has been involved in ensuring our clients have the best care possible throughout the lockdown and beyond.