Home health care pleases patients

August 29, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

When Violet Whoolery took a nasty tumble down her front steps in October and broke her back, her family thought that she might have to abandon her Brooklyn Park home for a health care facility.

But last week, the 79-year-old was in her bed at her home on Cresswell Road in Anne Arundel County, surrounded by family photos and cards. A nurse cared for her as her two daughters looked on and her great-grandchildren played in another room.

Harbor Hospital Center's Home Health Agency program allowed Mrs. Whoolery's family to keep her at home. rather than at a nursing home or a hospital.

"It would virtually be impossible for her to have any semblance of normal life without the home health care program," said her younger daughter, Roberta Filleaux, 54, who lives on Haile Avenue.

Mrs. Filleaux asked her mother, "Would you rather be here around your family?"

"Oh yes," Mrs. Whoolery replied.

Mrs. Whoolery, a widow, is diabetic and has had several strokes and heart attacks. Her right leg is paralyzed. She has gangrene in her left leg, leaving her unable to walk or get up on her own.

The daughters said they learned about the hospital's home health care program while their mother was in the hospital's extended-care facility for five weeks undergoing physical therapy.

Her older daughter, Nanetta Appetito, 61, lives with her. A longtime family friend who lives next door watches her mother while she is away from home.

Both daughters work full time. They say the hospital's program has allowed them and their mother to carry on with their lives.

The program was begun 10 years ago as a one-woman operation serving a handful of patients. There are about 24 health-care workers and 145 patients now.

Most of the patients are over 65 and suffer from complications caused by congestive heart failure, cerebral and pulmonary disease, cancer or diabetes.

Some need only nursing care, while others need therapy and home health aides. Patients are visited daily or several times a week, said Pat Rehberg, a registered nurse and manager of the program.

She attributes the increased caseload to shorter hospital stays and added outpatient services.

The program serves patients from Baltimore and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, and sometimes from Howard County. It is certified by Medicare and is monitored by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, said Ms. Rehberg.

A nurse works as a liaison with the agency and the hospital to help determine if a patient would be a good candidate for home care.

The advantage of the program, Ms. Rehberg said, is that it takes nurses into homes to see patients in their own environment.

"It's a holistic approach as far as nursing is concerned, and in the hospital I think that's difficult," said Ms. Rehberg.

On a recent day, Mrs. Whoolery sat in her bed and engaged in a little playful teasing of her nurse, Guadalupe Marquez.

A registered nurse for more than 35 years and a home health nurse for a year, Ms. Marquez laughed and took her patient's gentle joking in stride as she tended to Mrs. Whoolery's needs.

The program is good, Ms. Marquez said, because it "keeps the individual in the home and the family intact."

The families of patients can call the health care agency 24 hours a day.

"We can beep her [Ms. Marquez] and she's here in five minutes. She beeps us right back to see what the emergency is or what we think the emergency is and that's reassuring to know that she can be here," said Mrs. Filleaux.

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