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Home Health a ‘lifeline’ for homebound patients

By Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer
CHIP ELLIS | Gazette
Shannon Bartram, a nurse from Cabell Huntington Hospital, draws blood from Doloris Freeman in Freeman’s home. Freeman, who recently had a knee replaced, gets her follow-up treatment and physical therapy at home through the hospital’s Home Health program.
CHIP ELLIS | Gazette Doloris Freeman gets treatment and physical therapy at her home twice a week through Cabell Huntington Hospital’s Home Health program.

Doloris Freeman, her daughter and her grandson visited seven countries in Europe last May, traveling by motor coach from Paris to Germany and beyond.

Freeman, 76, loved the trip, but found that she couldn’t get around as much as she wanted. In 2007, she had undergone a full knee replacement, but it wasn’t her new right knee that was bothering her — it was her old left one.

“Often I would have to stay on the coach, not because of [the right] one, but because of the one I’ve just had fixed,” she said.

Freeman had her left knee replaced and was released from Cabell Huntington Hospital last Saturday. Since then, she has been receiving follow-up care and physical therapy for her surgery, but not at the hospital or in a doctor’s office. Instead, Cabell Huntington Home Health nurses visit Freeman’s home twice a week to draw blood, discuss her medications and re-dress her wound.

Freeman’s surgeon, Dr. Ali Oliashirazi, is head of the hospital’s Mary C. Hodges Joint Replacement Program and chief of orthopedics at Marshall University’s School of Medicine. Like many of Oliashirazi’s patients, Freeman was enrolled in the hospital’s Home Health program after being discharged.

“Dr. Ali wants you to do all of this physical therapy, and if Home Health didn’t come out, I would have to go in twice a week just to get my blood drawn,” Freeman said. “I live alone, and while I have two children, they work, so it’s hard to coordinate. And as for the physical therapy — I don’t enjoy it while they’re doing it, but it does help.”

Cabell Huntington’s program is one of only three hospital-based home health programs in the state.

Andra Hardin, director of Cabell Huntington’s Home Health services and the president of the West Virginia Council of Home Care, said that patients generally prefer to be in their own homes receiving treatment when possible, and the program allows the hospital and its patients to avoid lengthy and expensive stays.

“Often, these nurses and occupational therapists can provide these patients care and prevent them from going into a nursing home or skilled nursing facility,” Hardin said. “I had a patient’s husband tell me today that we are his lifeline in helping him care for his wife.”

Cabell Huntington’s Home Health program provides lab testing, physical therapy, speech therapy, intravenous therapy, medical social services, dietetics and skilled nursing services. Shannon Bartram, an RN for Home Health who visits Freeman regularly, said the hospital’s large service area coupled with Home Health’s low readmission rate — 16 percent — have made the service an invaluable tool for treating patients.

“When you’re talking about our readmission rate — it’s extremely low for the joint replacement program itself and for the Home Health team in general,” Bartram said. “Our goal is to get [Freeman] back to herself, and back to where she was prior to her surgery, and even beyond that.”

In order to be considered eligible for the Home Health program, patients must be homebound after their release, Bartram said. The program’s nurses are trained to do everything a physician would do during a follow-up visit. For Freeman, the program has been a great help to her during both of her knee surgeries, and even before them, when Home Health cared for her husband, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“My husband died eight years ago with ALS, and they came in and helped with Home Health and with physical therapy, to keep him moving,” Freeman said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re great. It would be such a burden on me, let alone my family, if I had to find someone to take me there. I can’t even tell you; it’s just very helpful.”

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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