KC Hospice providing essential grief, trauma support

Solace House expecting rise in demand for services
KC Hospice
Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 07:03:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care has been working harder than ever to make sure their patients and clients receive important care and services during the past year.

They're also one of the many organizations in the community on the front lines of a current and future mental health crisis as the country emerges from the pandemic.

"There isn't any other place in Kansas City that provides services like this," said Sherry Ainsworth of Solace House, where KC Hospice offers grief and trauma support, from preschoolers to the elderly.

Last March, everything changed.

"Every staff member, every Kansas City hospice grief support specialist, our music therapist, our art therapist, the staff members here at Solace House we all figured out how to do telehealth," grief programs director Lisa Farmer said.

For those working with younger patients, perspectives changed on both ends of the screen.

"You suddenly see that they're wrapped up with their Snuggies or their blankets that were special to them or a shirt that was their dad's or something like that, and you just get it you get how special that is," Ainsworth said.

Older patients grieving a death or grieving other losses also needed help.

"I have all these other losses that everyone else in the community is experiencing due to the pandemic. I'm not seeing my grandkids, I'm not seeing my neighbors, my coworkers, all those things," Farmer said.

Music therapy to relax and connect was shared virtually too.

"I think the need definitely has increased just because we're also much more isolated, especially older adults who live in long term care facilities not being able to visit with loved ones, being able to connect in that way has been especially needed and meaningful," music therapist Jesse Heilman said.

A year into the pandemic, with vaccinations rising and cases falling, Solace House is bracing for a new wave of need for their services.

"I think that people have been very busy. they're trying to get through life, they're trying to get through school, they're trying to figure out what works, you know, how can they maintain some sense of normalcy? I think our wave is going to really come once that sort of calms down and people can say, I haven't dealt with this," Ainsworth said.

That presents a new challenge for Solace House - an ongoing mental health crisis, as the metro and country emerge from what experts call a national trauma.

"We have hired additional staff, moved someone, an additional staff member full time into passages, and we still have a waiting list over a dozen…we’re not able to keep up with demand. And we see that getting more difficult," Farmer said.