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Nurse Reflects on Caring for Home Health Patients During the Pandemic 

This article first appeared in the June 2020 edition of Caring Matters, VNA Care's donor newsletter. 

As Massachusetts began reopening the state, Maryanne Palizzolo, RN, noticed a big change among the patients she’s caring for at home.

“People are getting a little less anxious,” she said. As a visiting nurse with VNA Care for 25 years, the pandemic is probably the single biggest crisis she and her colleagues have ever faced.

There were so many unknowns when the virus first threatened the Commonwealth in March. Maryanne remembered “we had a week of everybody refusing care. I think as they were getting sicker, they decided they would let one person come in.”

That one person is most often a visiting nurse. Their role as a lifeline for people with serious health conditions grew instantaneously as doctors’ offices and clinics closed as a precaution.

Maryanne recalled one of her patients, a woman waiting for a kidney transplant. Prior to its closure, she had been visiting a clinic for weekly injections and lab work. Now she was also caring for her ailing son and petrified of getting COVID-19 because of their fragile health.

She was “extremely fearful” to let Maryanne in during the first couple of weeks. “Since that time, her lab results have been incredible. She’s doing really, really well,” said Maryanne. “This wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t there.”

Maryanne recounted other successes to celebrate during these challenging months. One was a grandmother who was COVID-19 positive. The patient’s own daughter was in the hospital with COVID-19, and the grandmother was caring for her three young grandchildren.

Initially, it seemed that the woman could remain at home, but Maryanne saw her condition quickly deteriorate. Maryanne coordinated her hospitalization and arranged for the children to stay with family.

Less than two weeks later, her patient was well enough to return home under Maryanne’s care and has since made a full recovery.

“Things definitely would have gone in a different direction if I hadn’t been visiting,” said Maryanne. “She told me that she probably wouldn’t have gone to the hospital because she didn’t realize how sick she actually was.”

Whether a patient is COVID-19 positive or facing diabetes, heart disease, or other serious condition, Maryanne finds caring for people in their own homes to be incredibly rewarding.

“You build a much different type of relationship. Because the patients are so sick, we could be in there for months at a time whereas working in a hospital you might just see them for one shift,” she said. “I love everything about being a visiting nurse. I love being able to go into someone’s home and teach people about their disease process and their medications and just being a support.”

Pictured: Maryanne Palizzolo, RN, (left) stops by VNA Care’s office to get more personal protective equipment from Lesly Baez-Pais, scheduler.
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