“Through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

Stonerise Care Blog

Guardian Angels on Your Side

Cindy Wandling, MSN, RN, VP Clinical Quality, Transitional Care Centers

Families and loved ones play an important role in a patient’s health journey. Patients rely on emotional support, physical contact and feelings of being connected. It can be especially critical during a health transition or following a hospital stay. Even during the best of circumstances, uncertainty, poor communication or confusion can cloud the healthcare process and often create a negative experience. After all, the majority of patients and their families are not experts in handling a major health issue. How could they be?

The Coronavirus pandemic changed nearly everything about life in 2020. This has been felt profoundly by all of us in healthcare. Stonerise is no different. The pandemic made it even more difficult for patients and families to navigate health transitions. It’s easy to forget the magnitude of the impact on our transitional and skilled nursing center patients and their families.

One of the most heart-wrenching decisions we made was closing our care centers to outside visitors in mid-March, even before the state mandate to do so. Telling our patients and families was so difficult. We see them as part of our extended family, and no one knew how long it would be until limitations could be lifted. A bright light during that time was the establishment of our Guardian Angel program. We knew family communication was going to be more critical than ever, and we would need to make rapid operational adjustments to ensure regular and consistent communication.

Each patient across our 17 transitional care centers was assigned a “Guardian Angel” team member to keep the patient and their loved ones connected and informed.

This allowed a dedicated person — the same person with each communication — to establish a relationship with a family, provide regular updates to a family and to be available any time the family had questions, concerns or wanted to simply check in.

At Stonerise Martinsburg, Marsha and Bob, whose mother and father both are Stonerise Martinsburg patients, says their Guardian Angel, Social Worker Amber, has been extremely helpful and responsive. The siblings were happy to know one person would be the point of contact for any questions and concerns about their parents.

“We always feel that we can call when we have questions, and we have been grateful during this time of quarantine, that the angels have reached out to us,” Marsha said.

Her brother, Bob, said their family’s Guardian Angel has exceeded his expectations.

“It is comforting, especially during COVID-19, to know that my questions will be answered in a timely and clear manner,” he said. “My sister and I get updates regularly on the care and health needs and changes,” Bob said “This greatly puts my mind at ease, especially since currently, no visitation is possible. The siblings said they’ve always been able to reach out to get questions or concerns answered and addressed quickly. “Any time,” Marsha said. “Day or night.”

The Stonerise team members who serve as Guardian Angels say they recognize how important their role is in being able to comfort and reassure families, and they are honored to serve as that vital connection.

Stonerise Sunrise Graphic

Amber

Brooke and Abbigail

“For 10 months, I’ve been the one person to give personal touches and in-person love in place of a relative,” Brooke said. “I’ve stepped in as the person who can help meet the patient’s emotional and mental well-being needs. I’m the calm during the storm.”

I’m so proud of the many ways team members have stepped up to continue serving with love through an unprecedented pandemic. Everyone on the front lines has done incredible things to help us all get through this crisis. I’m truly humbled by how well they have adapted and for all the extra steps they are taking to ensure patients and their families are kept informed.

Guardian Angels come from a variety of positions at the local centers, from Admissions Directors to more clinical roles, but they all ensure they’re reviewing each patient’s chart to check for changes, and many speak with the patient one-on-one to see for themselves how the patient is doing and to ask if there are any specific messages to deliver to his or her family.

One Guardian Angel, Dietary Manager Abbigail, said she regularly speaks to nursing supervisors and dietitians to have a full and complete picture of each patient, and if something concerns her, she’ll share the phone call with a nurse to speak with the family for more clinical answers directly.

“I am the family’s support, and I will do whatever the family needs of me,” she said. “I am here for them, and I make sure I follow through.”

Abbigail said her favorite thing about the role is being the first person to be able to share good news with families.

“I do enjoy spending time with the patients, which has been a little more challenging, due to Coronavirus, but I take them outside, go to activities with them, we do projects and of course we enjoy eating some of our projects also,” she said.

At Stonerise Martinsburg, more than a dozen team members serve as Guardian Angels, so each patient can get the necessary focus and personal attention.

“They know we are going to do whatever we can for our patients,” Abbigail said. “Helping them with Zoom televisits with their families and coordinating window visits definitely help them.”

Guardian Angels also ask questions on behalf of the family, for example, when there may be new medications or dietary concerns. “When I call my families, it’s as if it’s a relief for them to hear my voice,” Brooke said. “Sometimes I can hear the relief in their voice that everything is OK and their loved one is taken care of.”

Challenge often breeds innovation, and I am so proud of the Guardian Angel program we developed at Stonerise in the face of the pandemic. I look forward to the day when we can embrace in-person visitors, but until then, our team members will continue to create new ways to serve with love.