Local Family Supported In Many Ways with Home Care and Hospice Services 

November 29, 2022

Each November the home care and hospice community honors the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists, and social workers who make a remarkable difference for the patients and families they serve.

These heroic caregivers play a central role in our health-care system and in homes across the nation. Here in Carroll County and Western Maine, our communities are served by local agency Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice. Their compassionate care is indispensable when families require home-based services, whether it’s a relative recovering from an accident or illness, or when hospice services are needed.

Over the years, Sara Horan of Madison has experienced the support of VNHCH to help care for family members in their time of need. About seven years ago, her father, Dr. Don Derse, was in need of hospice. Her stepmother, Linda, was doing as much as she could to care for him at home. When hospice was ordered, the support of the Visiting Nurses, particularly Anita Duncan, were invaluable.

“Hospice was always so tender, loving and kind. They provided my father with a lot of dignity. They even included spiritual support from Rev. Mary Edes, who helped make a wonderfully positive experience during a painful time. My dad was a Methodist minister before he was a doctor, so there was a real connection there. What that showed me is that every family is different, and every need is different. VNHCH worked to accommodate his needs and his desires.”

More recently, Horan’s family turned to VNHCH once again, this time for home care for her stepfather, Brett Russell. He experienced an accident that required him to have back surgery. After having surgery at the end of May, he returned home late in June after a stay in a rehab facility. He was doing better, but still required a wheelchair and a Hoyer lift to get him in and out of the chair and into bed. His wife, Cindy, has been his greatest champion, advocate and cheerleader throughout this experience.

Horan explained: “My son AJ and I provided all the homecare 24 hours a day for the first several months Brett was home. VNHCH sent lovely people to the home. Audrey taught my son and me how to bathe Brett. Every person that has come into the home is so good at their jobs. They are skilled at making personal connections with all the family members, but especially the person they are supporting. They find commonalities and build meaningful relationships beyond just providing a much needed service.”

Russell’s recovery also required occupational therapy, a service also provided by VNHCH. Horan said, “Hannah Sparks did a lot of OT that supported adjustments with how Brett maneuvered and functioned at home.”

Other therapists involved in Russell’s care included speech therapy and physical therapy.

Angela Nelson, PTA and Jeff Rothen, PT, interacted with the family several times a week.

Horan said: “They are just so impressive. They are really invested in helping Brett make as many gains as he can. Equally, they are there supporting me and figuring out how I can continue to do PT with Brett on a daily basis. They put plans together and work with me to problem solve and develop workouts that I can do with Brett to support their work — which is to provide Brett with as much progress as possible. It’s what’s best for Brett and they are so willing to supply me with whatever we need. It’s been phenomenal.”

Horan added: “Every time I talk to Angela and Jeff, it is clear how invested they are in Brett’s growth. They are quick to point out that their job is easier when the family provides support in helping Brett continue to make gains. Brett keeps making progress. Ultimately, we all have to thank Brett. His determination and drive make it easy to see how much of an impact these supports have made. He’s 83 years old and is bound and determined.”

Horan concluded that this latest experience with VNHCH is different in scope from the experience with hospice, but she’s left with the same reverence for what visiting nurses have provided for her family.

Russell could not have come home unless VNHCH was part of the plan and for that they are grateful.

Horan wants families to know that VNHCH is a resource that can add to the complement of services that families provide. She encouraged people to talk with VNHCH to find simple ways for family members to be involved and continue the support VCNCH provides.

For more information on home care and hospice services, go to vnhch.org or call (603) 356-7006.