Visiting Nurses Home receives support for Simple Comforts

A home health aid assists a long-term care patient in her home. (BILL LEE PHOTO)

CONWAY — Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference in the quality of life for seniors and individuals with disabilities. A weighted spoon that helps a Parkinson’s patient. Safety equipment for a bathroom. Or minor modifications to a home that makes it more accessible.

But oftentimes these long-term care patients can’t afford these items. Coverage for these types of needs fall into the crack between long-term care Medicaid, Medicare and federal programs like Title XX/TitleIIIB, which covers direct care but not supplies. Visiting Nurses Home Care and Hospice can now provide support to these vulnerable low-income patients, thanks to the generosity of the Pequawket Foundation of North Conway, which recently awarded a $2,000 grant to VNHCH to help those in need.

Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice serves around 150 long-term care patients annually, many of them with chronic illness, disabilities or aging that prevents them from working.

Low-income patients may qualify financially for Medicaid Choices for Independence program if they are considered nursing facility level of care. Before they reach nursing facility level of care, they are enrolled in the Title XX, or IIIB, which covers the cost of direct care but not supplies, equipment, medication and personal care items.

There are some programs out there that help cover expenses, but there is often a two- to three-month waiting period for funding. For some of these patients, that’s simply too long to wait, especially for time-critical items like medication.

Executive Director Sandy Ruka explained, “Simple Comforts was created to fill this very specific, often low-cost gap, which not only serves a vulnerable population but preserves dignity and improves quality of life as well. One of VNHCH’s aims is to keep people in their homes as long as possible through our services. As those on the front lines with patients, we see their needs.”

Outreach Coordinator Ashlee Chaine shared that some of these patients are in need of the most basic of necessities … a set of bed sheets or cleaning supplies. The cost isn’t great, but the funds provide comfort many could not otherwise afford. “These are the people who need the most help, and are often forgotten. The program runs lean and it doesn’t often get donations the way others do such as hospice. This support from Pequawket Foundation was so needed.”

The idea for the program came from VNHCH Home Health Aids, workers on the front lines with these patients. Chaine added, “Our aides asked for this after watching this happen every day. Now they can be empowered to help patients in need.”

VNHCH makes it simple to access the funds. In-home VNHCH staff submit a request for the items needed, which will then be reviewed by a committee of three VNHCH staff members. Other resources for funding, if any, will first be identified and, if there are ongoing programs to help, those will be applied for. Only then will the funds be tapped to purchase the items or services.

Chaine provided some real life examples of how these funds will be used. “For instance, Medicaid may pay for a grab bar for a patient’s shower, but not for the labor to install it. Sometimes special cleaning supplies are needed to help clean up a patient’s home after an illness or accident, and the patient can’t afford it. Now our Home Health Aids can request these funds. They know best what the need is.”

The Pequawket Foundation grant supports patients in the greater Conway area, basically from Jackson down to Albany. VNHCH intends to seek additional funds and donations so they can do the same for their entire service area which extends to all of Carroll County and portions of Western Maine. Anyone wishing to donate to the Simple Comforts program is encouraged to contact Chaine directly to help.

Long term care is just one of the important services provided by VNHCH. Long term care is provided by Licensed Nursing Assistants with RN oversight, and by home health aides and homemaker support services.

Licensed Nursing Assistants help with daily living activities and provide “hands-on” personal care services. These may include assistance with bathing, dressing and eating. Specific duties depend on individual needs as evaluated by the nurse supervisor and established in a plan of care.

Homemaking or on-medical assistance is provided to clients by home health aides and homemakers. They perform such services as help with laundry, groceries, cleaning and other routine household tasks.

For more information on the Simple Comforts program and long-term care, go to vnhch.org.

Since 1974, Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice has been caring for the people of Carroll County, adding Western Maine in 2012. They provide a wide range of skilled nursing, therapeutic home health, homemaker and related services for individuals of all ages, delivered by well-qualified, supervised and professional staff of caring individuals.

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