Landmark middle school student Fall

Behind the Mask of COVID-19

by Danica Kurzhals ’08

I am a social worker at the High Pointe House, a hospice and palliative care residence located in Haverhill, Mass. Hospice care focuses on improving the quality of life of the terminally ill. I enjoy working in hospice because of its medical model that focuses on a team approach. The team consists of doctors, nurses, the chaplain, aides, and a social worker. We work together to support not only the patient, but also the patient’s network of family and friends.

As COVID-19 became more prevalent in Massachusetts, I knew the demand for hospice care would increase to levels never seen before. At the time, High Pointe House was the only COVID-19 inpatient hospice facility in the state.

To adjust to meet the needs of the COVID-19 patients, we have a dedicated Precaution Pod in our facility. Personally, I had to adapt my work attire, and I now must wear basic medical scrubs and a mask. This change has made it difficult for me because it hides nonverbal expressions, such as a smile, that can allay anxiety or fear. Because the virus is highly contagious, many families are afraid to visit for fear of catching it. To reconnect patients to their families, I helped implement the use of iPads. It has been my honor to be able to experience this deeply private and emotional experience with them. 

As my mask covering says, “We are all in this together!”

 

Landmark alumna with face mask