Local chaplains help bridge gap between isolated COVID-19 patients and their families

Sometimes chaplains connect patients with their families by holding up a phone to a window so the family members can see their loved one.

Friday, May 22, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Seeing loved ones at local hospitals isn't as easy as it used to be. But chaplains at Augusta University Health are trying to be the voice in between.

As medical staff members pace the halls, patients sit behind closed doors.

“In this time with COVID, people feel very isolated. They are very fearful. We don’t know enough about this to know what will happen,” chaplain Jeff Flowers said.

Flowers is AU Health’s director of pastoral care.

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As coronavirus has spread, his team of about 10 other staff members began asking a question: How do you virtually connect with people?
In some cases, it looks like a chaplain putting a phone to the patient’s window.

“The family said, ‘Can we just see them? We know our family member is not able to respond, but can we just see?” Flowers said.

He says that seemingly small gesture is a life-giving boost.

Other times, family members dress in personal protective equipment and go in themselves or ask a nurse.

The chaplains at AU Health also help connect patients to faith communities in the area, providing devices so the patients can watch online services.

He said medical staff members are facing their own fears, like infecting their family.

“That’s an anxiety that all the frontline folks deal with each day,” Flowers said.

In this time, everyone needs support, even if it’s through a screen.

“The benefit of this is providing community, providing care, letting everyone know that you are not alone. There are people here with you who care about you and are going to do things to protect you,” Flowers said.

Nothing can replace family, but this sure is better than feeling alone.

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