Caregivers enable elderly to live at home

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/26/96.

Medical, healthcare, and information professionals have joined together to promote National Family Caregivers Week, Nov. 24-30, to celebrate and pay tribute to the 18-25 million Americans who care for, and about, loved ones who are chronically ill or disabled. Caregivers provide 86 percent of the care needed by older adults in their homes.

One theme of the week is Family Caregiving Counts. Working out of the Paynesville Area Health Care System are 17 caregivers who work with individuals in their homes.

Beth Person, RN, recently completed a five-week Home Care service with Paul Hemmesch, Paynesville. Hemmesch, 77, had been in the St. Cloud Hospital and doctors wouldnât let him come home without a caregiver to assist his wife, Irene. ãHome Health Care was really helpful,ä Irene said. äIt allowed Paul to come home instead of to a nursing home to recuperate. I donât know what we would have done without their service.ä

Hemmesch had been in the hospital a week and prior to his arrival at home, a hospital bed had been set up in the living room for him. Home Health Caregivers rotated visiting the Hemmesch home, providing different services. Among the services provided were helping him bathe, changing his bandages, checking tubes, helping him dress, checking medication, and therapy, to name a few.

ãPaul had a few ups and downs after coming home and all I needed to do was call the hospital and they connected me with a Home Health Caregiver to answer my questions,ä Irene said. Caregivers came to the Hemmesch home twice a week at first and gradually cut back their visits as he regained his strength. Person said the amount of care a person requires varies from one person to another. Irene said she could have requested them to come more often, but didnât feel it necessary. She was a little apprehensive at first, wondering if she could take care of her husband at home, but with instructions from Home Health Care, she had very few problems.

Person has been doing Home Health Care about four years. She likes the service as it allows someone to stay at home instead of entering a nursing home. ãHome is the best place to heal and get better,ä she added. Person said a person doesnât always require 24-hour care, but little things to allow them to stay independent in their home longer.

Some of the services provided include bathing, giving shots, preparing medication for the day, physical therapy, occupational therapy, doing blood tests, helping the patient dress; household tasks such as laundry, preparing meals, vacuuming, washing hair, running errands, to name a few. Person said it is amazing how much medical equipment is available for home use. ãA lot can be done to make things easier for the patient to stay at home rather than enter a nursing home,ä she added.

Person explained a person must be home bound before services can begin and the services must be approved by a doctor. Medicare and insurance companies do cover Home Health Care. The American Cancer Society and Home Health Care also provides a lot of equipment to patients.

ãCare can be short-term like Pauls or long-term and go on for years. Home Health Care is also available to terminally ill patients who wish to die at home,ä she added. ãOnce people go off Home Health Care, they can come back on again if the need arises.ä

Olivia Schmidt, 89, Paynesville, has been receiving Home Health Care for almost a year. She is no stranger to the program, as she had caregivers come into her home for almost six years to help care for her daughter who had cerebal palsy.

Jill Paul, Paynesville, is one of many caregivers who assist Schmidt in her daily chores. Schmidt required the services for herself after developing ulcers on her legs which wouldnât heal.

Paul, a certified nursing assistant, has been doing Home Health Care since 1990. She completed a 72-hour training course and works out of Koronis Manor. ãI think the program is wonderful,ä Paul said. ãIt allows people to be cared for at home instead of entering a nursing home. Home Health Care is more than nursing duties, it is also doing household chores and providing informal visits with patients.

ãPatients eat better and tend to have more visitors when they are able to be in their homes,ä Paul said. She added that some people required assistance only a half hour per day and others required help two hours per day, seven days a week.

Paul says many families are very supportive of caregivers as they take some of the burden off the adult children of patients. The caregiver also provides a relief for the spouse when they need to get out of the house to relieve stress of caring for a sick loved one. Person and Paul both agreed the patients are happiest when they can stay in their own home. ãPart of our job is making the patient or client happy,ä Paul said.

The Paynesville Home Health Care staff is under the direction of the St. Cloud Hospital. At present, the Home Health Care staff is caring for about 30 individuals within a 30-mile radius of Paynesville.

Local caregivers are: physical therapy, Tim Lane, Linda Hamm, Scott Liebl, Judy Kraemer and Leenay Doll; occupational therapy, LouAnn Fahlberg; social worker, Lois Roback; nursing and home health aids, Karen LaCroix, Beth Person, Margie Schutz, Roxanne Knisley, Mary Ann Schmidt, Lori Lieser, Jill Paul, Sharon Johnson, Julann Albright and Bev Sommerfeld.

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