Aides are key to home health and hospice
by Jared Speckman
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care month and Jefferson County is spreading awareness about the services they offer.
According to the national Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, more than 1.58 million people receive care from hospice palliative care providers in the United States.
This care provides “expert pain management, symptom control, emotional support, and spiritual care to patients and family caregivers when a cure is not possible.”
Much of the hospice care is provided in the home which allows the patients to remain with their families in comfortable surroundings.
The Jefferson County Home Health program offers related services including senior services, nail care program, a home health aide bath program, housekeeping and meal preparation.
The eligibility for the services includes a home-bound status, a need for skilled nursing or therapy, and residence in or near Jefferson County, among other things.
The Jefferson County hospice program offers skilled nursing care, nutritional support, pastoral care and grief support for patients with a terminal illness.
Part of that program are the two home health aides that serve Jefferson County, Kathy Smith and Lori Robinson.
The home health aides serve as the eyes and ears of their nurses. They will go see their patients once or twice a week and provide personal care to the patients.
“We bathe them, clean them up, check for any changes or issues,” Robinson explained.
Smith and Robinson provide many of the needs for the patients that they cannot accomplish themselves.
Because they visit so often and take care of them, the home health aides become an extension of their family.
“For a lot of them, we’re the only people they see,” Robinson said. “Many of them look forward to seeing us. Their eyes light up when we come in. We’re not only there to aid them in their personal care but it’s a social thing for them.”
The benefit of the hospice care is that it allows patients to stay more comfortable while being treated in their home.
Smith and Robinson said that they will visit between five and eight patients each day
“A lot of our patients we have cared for for years,” Smith said. “They are in and out of home health or in and out of our bath program.”
That element of the job makes it a unique experience for the two home health aides. They build a rapport and a bond with their patients on a day-to-day basis.
“That is the thing I love most about this job,” Smith said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people that I would have never known if it hadn’t been for this job.”
“When we walk away from this job every day, we feel appreciated and you can’t say that about very many jobs,” Robinson added. “We’ll walk away with five to eight hugs a day and a kiss on the cheek.”
Smith started as a home health aide just over 20 years ago after working in a nursing home for several years. She applied for the part-time position in the department and was moved to full-time work a short three weeks later.
Robinson switched careers on her path to become a home health aide. She was a bookkeeper for 11 years before she was laid off. She got her CNA license and after seeing a member of her family in hospice knew that it was a line of work that she wanted to be in.
“I knew the nursing home was not a setting I wanted to be in but I also knew I wanted to work in hospice somewhere,” she said.
Both of the aides have been influenced by having family members in hospice.
“We can be a lot more sympathetic and empathetic with the patients,” Robinson said.
One of the most important components is the ability to gain a trust with the families of the patients they provide care to. That ability is something that has come easily for Smith and Robinson as they become more familiar.
Along with the positives of the job, there are almost always some negatives. The struggles of the patients can also affect Smith and Robinson as they pointed out. They admitted that they become very attached to their patients after spending so much time with them.
“You shed a lot of tears with a lot of clients,” Smith said.
“That’s probably the only downside,” Robinson said.
Despite that, the positives of their job far outweigh the negatives. Smith and Robinson also try to go the extra mile for their clients, providing additional services such as picking up their groceries for them.
“We’ve done a little bit of everything,” Robinson said.
One of the biggest things they have noticed in their time in hospice is how many people don’t realize the services are offered.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t know this is available,” Smith said.
What they hope this month sheds light on is that Jefferson County has these options available and hope that they will take advantage of the opportunities.
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