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Marion County Home Care earns top agency

Staff writer

Marion County home health care nurses and certified home health aides based out of St. Luke Living Center are dedicated to helping patients.

A couple of years ago, a nurse was involved in a traffic accident where her car was turned over on its roof. Uninjured, she crawled out from under the car, received a ride back into Marion, and borrowed her sister’s vehicle in order to drive to her patients.

“I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘I’m tired of coming to this job,” CHHA Anamaria Kraus said. “There are never two days that are the same.”

HomeCare Elite named Marion County Home Care as a top 500 program in the country Nov. 3. Winners are ranked by an analysis of performance measured in quality outcomes, quality improvement, and financial performance.

“There’s a lot of home health agencies out there,” program director Janet Herzet said.

Marion County Home Care is the only home care agency based in Marion County. A normal route for aides starts in Marion driving west to Hillsboro, north to Durham, and then southwest to Goessel before returning to Marion.

“You wouldn’t believe how many miles we drive a month,” Herzet said.

In October, home care made 294 visits throughout the county, nearly 10 patients a day, nurse Mary Ann Conyers said.

The program is partly designed to cater to immobile patients in remote areas. Conyers said she drove through a stream in the dead of winter to reach a patient; she had to ride her brakes down a hill to keep them from freezing.

The nurses’ and aides’ commitment to the program stems from their belief that home care is the best way to take care of patients — from premature babies, to 20-year-old construction workers recovering from an injury suffered on a job, to patients over 100 years old.

Nurses, aides, and occupational and physical therapists work alone and personally make the decisions a committee of health care workers may be involved in at a hospital. Although nurses sometimes have had to improvise in a home environment.

“There’s no pressure in the patient’s home to get the job done,” Kraus said. “It’s one-on-one. It’s a comfortable environment.”

Kraus is a relative newcomer to home care with 10 years of experience — most Marion County Home Care employees have been in the field for 20 years. Conyers has been a nurse with home care for 30 years. They said they eventually feel a part of a patient’s family.

“Trust is something that comes with time,” Kraus said. “We’ve all had personal relationships with these people.”

The relationships are built around small conversations. Marion resident Carol Robertson has used home care three times — for a broken left ankle 25 years ago, with her husband Larry who was undergoing skin cancer treatments, and most recently with a knee replacement. She said her family was the normal topic of conversation with aides and nurses.

“For me, everything is observation,” Kraus said. “I see you’ve got pictures of your grandkids. Some collect teakettles. Some have paintings. It’s just something to break the ice.”

Part of being family is tough love.

“It’s amazing how fast you get back on your feet with their help,” Robertson said. “They push you. They stand there and watch you do the exercises.”

Kraus tells family members to make her the “bad guy” whenever possible.

“We keep family as innocent as possible,” she said. “It helps the family have more of a relationship.”

The home care nurses and aides work to provide the safest conditions for their patients, even if it is against their wishes. Herzet recalled a situation where a patient did not have indoor plumbing. She was using an outhouse until it was hit by a tree.

“All she had was a commode; there were safety concerns for my staff,” Herzet said. “We helped her get indoor plumbing. She did not see the need.”

Kraus also said that while home care workers believe in home care, they will suggest a patient be admitted to a nursing home if needed.

“We’ll be the first to tell them they’re not safe,” Kraus said. “I’m sure we could keep them on and make more money.”

Robertson said the dedication to their jobs is indicative of the overall character of the home care nurses and aides.

“If you’re really called, it works,” she said. “I couldn’t be one of them. I can do a lot of things but I could not be a nurse. They are just wonderful people; you have to care about people to do it.”

Last modified Nov. 10, 2010

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