The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many changes in the world, some that we don’t realize unless it affects us personally. Margaret Kyser, Executive Director of Eaton Community Palliative Care (ECPC) in Charlotte, more commonly known as “Hospice,” is immersed in the situation daily. She is responsible for protecting her staff, patients, and their families yet still serve them as effectively and compassionately as before.
“It’s been a very interesting year being on lockdown,” Kyser said. “It’s been stressful, but not our normal stress.”
ECPC opened in 1983 and provides 24-hour per day physical, emotional, and spiritual care for terminally ill people in a residential setting. That care is complemented with support for their loved ones, with the goal of enabling death with dignity.
“As president of the board of directors, I’m very proud of Eaton Community Palliative Care,” said Rick Jones, former Eaton County Sheriff, State Senator and State Representative. “I have known many of the patients there, including my own mother. COVID-19 has made it much tougher to deliver this vital service, but hopefully soon with vaccines, we will have immunity.” Jones has volunteered at the facility for 23 years.
Currently, like many other businesses, the ECPC residential facility is under lockdown. The State of Michigan allows visitors participating in end-of-life visits to have physical contact with a resident if that resident is not COVID-19 positive, the visitors are wearing appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and the time spent within six feet of the resident is no longer than 15 minutes.
New short-term patients and those that aren’t safe to be home alone or those who don’t have a 24-hour caretaker are welcome at ECPC and may have two visitors who are properly attired with PPE.
“The families have been so excited to be allowed to be with their loved one here,” Kyser commented. “We provide a mask, face shield, gloves, and a throw-away gown, if needed, and do a temperature check on visitors,” Kaiser added.
Even with virus fears, the care of the patients cannot stop. Volunteers in the three shops that are run by the facility, most of who are older, are staying home, concerned about COVID-19. The Olivet College students who normally help in the houses are unable to do so. But the bills continue to come due.
“Our income was cut by a third when we had to close our thrift store,” Kyser said. “With patients in the same building we just couldn’t reopen.” Funds generated by thrift store sales generally help cover the operating expenses of both houses at ECPC.
ECPC can accommodate up to 12 patients at a time, normally six in each house. Patients are charged $200 per day for room and board, which is not covered by Medicare. There is a sliding scale fee for those with limited income.
With some thought and careful planning, however, a plan was devised so that the thrift store could eventually re-open. All the patients were moved from that building to a different house at ECPC, away from the thrift store.
The Thrift Store was able to re-open in November 2020. The furniture store at 305 Hall Street in Charlotte has also re-opened for business. The sales from the stores, however, were down about 40% in 2020. A $10,000 Re-Start grant was received, which is intended to support Michigan’s small businesses and nonprofits that are reopening and have experienced a loss of income because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Kyser said volunteers are very much needed to work in the stores. The work involves moving furniture, security, helping with furniture pick-ups, marking items, and putting them out in the shop. If you’re interested in helping, call or stop by for an application. Volunteers must be willing to wear a mask.
Those working security might be glad to know it’s a sit-down job on the ground level with no steps to climb, and is basically a greeter position, Kyser explained.
“We are still receiving a lot of donations and have ample merchandise in our stores,” Kyser pointed out, “but sales are at half of what they used to be. This will change, I’m sure, as it all becomes safer.”
All the ECPC stores are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Donations are accepted during that time as well.
The Loan Closet, that allows people to borrow medical equipment, was moved to the building that usually houses the Christmas store. It was set up so that there was no need for interaction with visitors or staff, with one side of the building for drop-offs and donations and the other side for pick up.
ECPC is located at 2675 South Cochran, one mile south of Charlotte. You can learn more about ECPC by visiting their website at echospice.org, or by calling (517) 543-5310.