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Earlier this month I was asking around, "What do people here do to help families who are struggling during the holidays?" When I mentioned this to Robyn Gonzales, she said, "Talk to our homecare teams! So I paid them a visit. I learned not only what the spirit of giving is all about, but also how vital Homecare is to Community Medical Centers.
Community's Home Care service is the largest in the Valley with about 50,000 visits a year. Every day there are about 600 patients being serviced by six home health care teams. About 40 percent of these patients are on Medicare, Medicaid or are medically indigent.
In the old days a lot of their work was spent teaching patients, and although this is still a big part of what the home healthcare staff do, technology has raised the bar. Terry Bramer, Director/Administrator for Community Home Care shared, "There's almost nothing we can't do at home. IVs are managed using game boy-like devices or balloon pumps that deflate as the drugs are administered." The technology is designed so that it’s easy for the patient. Other services include wound care, physical therapy, and speech therapy.
"What's a day in the life, like for your folks?” I asked Manager Rebecca Williams, and Supervisor Donna Torres. They smiled that knowing smile. The one you see on a persons face before they tell you something they know will surprise you.
"We had one of our nurses drive her Toyota Corolla into a neighborhood and as she got closer to the patient's home she noticed a group of men milling about nearby. When she parked her car they surrounded it and she panicked. Just then a young man leaned over close to her window and said 'Ma'am , one of our guys will escort you in , and the rest of us will stand guard so nobody bothers your car.' "
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, and took off my jacket (because somehow Terry's office had gotten incredibly hot) I asked, "So, this doesn't sound like a job for the faint-hearted. What kind of skills do your nurses possess?"
"We’re a guest in people's home," Rebecca said. "So we have to be able to build trust. Some of our patients treat us like family and we have to have tea before we leave,” she added with a smile. When I asked about how they manage what seems like a very complex job, they all piped up.
“Sometimes we play psychologist, and other days we are air traffic controllers trying to communicate well with other care givers.” And Rebecca added, “Some days we are a parent giving out tough love. But not an enabling parent!” she joked. “To do this job you have to know a little about a lot of things -- and then apply these skills in an uncontrolled environment.”
“It takes Spidey-sense,” offered Terry. There was immediate silence in the room, followed by some uncontrolled laughter. I really appreciated Terry’s visual explanation.
Just the week before I had seen the Denzel Washington movie "Flight," so the mention of being in an unexpected situation and yet “landing the plane” so to speak during these home care visits, made me really proud of this team.
If you know any of these folks, or are as amazed as I am at what they do to deliver great patient care, please reply on this blog with your note of recognition. List your name on the reply and you’ll receive a little 4-pack of Godiva chocolates. It’s the holidays after all, so there are no calories in the box. Homecare folks – feel free to recognize each other!
And, if you feel like you and your families have been blessed this past year, surprise the Home Care team by dropping off some canned goods for their pantry or some unwrapped Christmas toys to their Dakota street office. This Friday, they are headed out to make six families’ Christmases even brighter.