From driving through snow storms to perusing Facebook for a free refrigerator, Mary Dean Stevenson has learned that caring for someone often extends beyond the expected. A home health nurse for more than five years, she has had the opportunity to hone her medical skills and also become a problem solver, an advocate and a friend.
Stevenson, a Moffat County native, identifies with the independent spirit that can make it hard for people to ask for help. Finding little ways to relate to clients – swapping stories with a fellow military veteran or sharing memories with a longtime local – starts a relationship that helps her understand and address a client’s home care needs. “Interacting with patients and building a rapport with them and their families is one my favorite parts of this job,” she said. “I can honestly say I love what I do.”
At Northwest Colorado Health, home health is about doing everything possible to help clients live safely and successfully in their homes. This includes communicating with the client’s health care provider about safety and home issues that may affect their recovery and helping clients manage their medications, get assistive devices and get to doctor appointments. Coping with limited mobility and other challenges can be both physically and emotionally taxing. Home health staff provide emotional support and also help clients look to the future by helping them apply for community services and programs and even get started on education goals.
Home health services are flexible based on clients’ needs, which can vary widely. Some clients may only need a hand with daily living tasks such as cooking, cleaning and errands and personal care. Personal care providers are available to help with this type of non-medical care while offering a friendly ear and encouraging word. “Every person on our team that sees a patient is looking at what they can do to provide a better environment for healing,” said Julie Gates, clinical supervisor of home services. “We listen to our patients and are receptive to their hopes and concerns. We are completely focused on helping them achieve a positive quality of life.”
Northwest Colorado Health provides home health in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties. The home health team includes nurses, certified nursing assistants, medical social workers and physical, occupational and speech therapists. Nurses are available every day at all hours to help clients. Last year, the team drove a total of 130,000 miles to reach clients in the far reaches of our region. “Sometimes, you just don’t know what you’re going to walk into,” said Stevenson, recalling a time when she found herself helping a client corral loose cattle. Other situations have been more serious, such as arriving at a client’s home to find they have fallen or are having medical complications. It’s not unusual to be in areas without cell phone service and sometimes a nurse may not even have access to a landline. That’s when experience really counts. “I have a lot of faith in my skills and judgement and that of our staff,” Stevenson said. “You can’t always know what to expect.”
Home health services are available to clients through a physician’s referral. However, if an individual thinks they or someone they know may benefit from these services, they can call Gates, who will work with health care providers to see if the program is a good fit. Home health accepts all insurance. Clients who have no insurance or are underinsured can pay on a sliding fee scale. For more information, call 970-871-7692.