By Katie Demeria
WINCHESTER -- With the help of funds raised by volunteers at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, some Shenandoah County residents will be able to remain safe and independent within their own homes.
This year, the hospital's volunteer auxiliary raised $3,500, which it donated to Valley Health's Home Health program.
According to program Director Patty Kleinfelter, the donation is an example of individuals within a community directly helping other residents.
Home Health is a multi-disciplinary program that ensures patients are able to care for themselves when they return to their homes.
The services provided range drastically, Kleinfelter said.
Occupational Therapist Meghan Fisher travels throughout the area to visit homes and make sure individuals, especially senior citizens, are able to care for themselves.
"Imagine an elderly grandmother has scatter rugs in the kitchen and falls, breaking a hip, and is only found by a family member seven hours later," Fisher said. "When she goes home, she can't get into the tub, so an occupational therapist comes in to install a tub bench so she can bathe herself."
This, Fisher said, is a common scenario. She works to make sure patients are able to get around their homes and take care of themselves, retaining their autonomy while remaining safe.
Kleinfelter said, sometimes, the situations are severe.
"We've had to help people make rent payments because they were choosing between, for example, paying their rent or buying their medication," she said. "They're making serious economic choices."
She said sometimes they have had to aid individuals heat their homes or buy groceries.
"We have to get creative sometimes," Kleinfelter said.
Home Health finds out about individuals in need in various ways. Many times, those going through rehabilitation in a hospital setting will require their help when they go home.
Fisher said walking after surgery, for example, is much easier in a hospital where hallways are wide and the staff is there to assist the patient.
She then goes to the home and makes sure the doorways are not too narrow or, especially in farmhouses, the floors are not too uneven.
"A lot of times some simple equipment will make all the difference to their daily lives, and they don't even realize it," Fisher said. "We bring a lot of light to a lot of folks."
At other times, physicians will alert Home Health when they have not seen a patient in a long time, or when they notice the patient's health is quickly declining.
"We then go visit them and try to figure out what is going on," Kleinfelter said.
Fisher said Home Health works to make sure healing started in an ideal setting like a hospital continues when they return to reality.
Those in need are not immediately aided by funds raised by Shenandoah Memorial Hospital's volunteers, Kleinfelter pointed out. They are used as a last resort to help someone in Shenandoah County -- only when neither the patient's family nor their insurance will cover something they need.
She said she is careful with those funds, trying not to give more than around $100 to each patient in order to save money for everyone in need.
"With just a little education and help, we can make all the difference to people who are in really extreme situations," she said.
Those interested in donating can make checks out to the SMH Foundation, including "Home Health Care Fund" in the memo line, and mail them to 759 S. Main Street, Woodstock, VA 22664.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com