MELROSE PARK, Ill. (January 9, 2015) – Do your neighbors have their house lights on all night? Is their walk shoveled? Are the newspapers and mail piling up? You might want to knock on the door and check on them, said Debbie Jansky, assistant manager, Gottlieb Home Health & Hospice.
“Winter is isolating for all of us but when severe weather hits, the chronically ill or elderly really suffer the most,” she said. “Many people live alone and may be too proud to ask neighbors for help."
Jansky coordinates the care of more than 100 homebound patients with her staff of more than three dozen licensed home-care medical professionals. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital’s registered nurses, social workers, and physical, occupational and speech therapists make daily house calls to homebound patients to make wellness checks and orchestrate care despite the inclement weather.
“When you know the patient is waiting at home, often looking out the window, depending on you to come change their Foley catheter, manage their dressings or administer an IV, you move mountains to go to them, without question,” said Jansky, who has been a home-care nurse for more than two decades. “In Chicago it is unbearably hot and humid in summer, often floods in the spring and, like this winter, is unbearably cold and snowy. Your patients are unable to go out for care, but as a home-care nurse, you have to weather the elements to go to them."
For Jack Gallo, 82, a wellness check from Gottlieb home-health nurse Cindy Uribe is crucial.
“Her visit is the highlight of my day,” said the Elmwood Park senior who can no longer walk. “She coordinates my many medications, talks with me about concerns and makes sure I am in good shape."
Uribe visits six or more patients per day.
“You never know what you will find in a patient’s home and you can’t take for granted that everything is well with homebound patients,” said Uribe, who travels with a snow shovel because she often needs to shovel her way to patients’ homes.
“Patients may have injured themselves, made mistakes with their pills, forgotten to eat or drink and some cannot feel the temperature and their home is too cold or too hot,” she said.
Living in their own home and being independent is important to many senior citizens as they age.
“A registered home-care nurse offers patients experienced nursing care to troubleshoot and manage their medical issues so they can stay in their homes where they are most happy,” Uribe said. “A home-care nurse partners with vulnerable patients and must learn their limitations and habits. Home routines that work must be created and maintained and really strong friendships are formed."
Gottlieb Home Health & Hospice staff focus on keeping homebound patients comfortable and cared for by being responsive, proactive and accountable.
Tips to help neighbors during winter
- Exchange contact numbers with your neighbor. Make sure your neighbor has your number on speed dial and the phone is within their reach. Include numbers for the neighbors’ relatives and care providers.
- Establish a regular time to see a homebound neighbor in person to have a quick talk and check that the heat is working and water running.
- Shovel the walk for a neighbor when it snows and take in their newspapers or mail.
- Offer to bring food or run errands for groceries, etc.
- Sit and visit. Homebound patients often do not interact with others and will enjoy socialization.
“Being a home-health nurse is a big challenge, but it also is a big honor to be welcomed regularly into the daily lives of a patient and be a guest in their home,” Jansky said. “No bitter cold temperature or piles of snow will stop us from helping those in our care.”