By Tamera Manzanares
Nearly a year ago, Gerry Pritchard of Craig received a dire diagnosis – stage four melanoma. Doctors said he probably only had a couple of months to live, but he was determined to fight. Remarkably, much of his cancer and tumors are now gone; he is enjoying more independence and mobility and starting to feel like himself again. Pritchard credits his progress to his optimism and support from his medical and home health team, including Maria Mosman, a registered nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. Mosman attended to Pritchard’s medical needs at home but also provided encouragement, understanding and knowledge as he tackled what others might have considered a winless battle. “She was always on my side,” he said. “She really helped me get through it.”
Experience, compassion and dedication are hallmarks of the VNA’s Home Health program, which has been providing skilled nursing and other home support to residents in Routt and Moffat counties for more than 50 years. Last year, Home Health helped more than 300 clients recovering from surgeries, illnesses or injuries at home. It is the only nonprofit home care program in the Yampa Valley. It includes a team of registered nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, Certified Nursing Aides and medical social workers. Nurses address a client’s home medical needs, such as wound care, but also serve as advocates, answering questions, contacting their doctor with concerns or connecting them to community resources.
Home Health can be an important source of comfort for patients coping with limited mobility and the complex emotions that can accompany the healing process. “We don’t just provide care,” said Julie Gates, clinical supervisor for Home Health and Hospice at the VNA. “We listen to our patients and are receptive to their hopes and concerns. We are completely focused on helping them achieve their goals.” Often clients are transitioning from hospitals and skilled nursing or residential facilities to their homes. Some don’t need skilled nursing care but could use a hand with daily living tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands and personal care. Home Health’s Personal Care Providers help clients with these non-medical needs while also offering a friendly ear and encouraging word.
Home Health is particularly important in our rural landscape, where clients may live far from medical resources or have limited transportation. In 2014, the VNA’s Home Health and Hospice staff drove more than 60,000 miles, through all types of weather, to deliver care to residents in the far reaches of Routt and Moffat counties. Staff have even been escorted through snow storms by law enforcement in order to reach clients. Home Health enables many clients to heal safely, in the comfort of their homes. Staff evaluate a person’s home environment for aspects, such as rugs or uneven surfaces, which may cause falls or injury. They will make simple modifications and arrange for assistive devices such as grab bars, to be installed in the home.
Services are available to clients through a physician’s referral. However, if an individual thinks they or someone they know may benefit from Home Health services, they are welcome to call Gates, who will work with medical providers to see if the program is a good fit. Physicians also are encouraged to contact Gates for more information about how Home Health’s various support services can help their patients. “We want to thank all the providers in our communities for partnering with the VNA to support their patients’ home care needs,” she said. Home Health accepts all insurance; however, services are available to anyone, regardless of insurance status or income, with a doctor’s referral. For more information, call 970-871-7692.