Unsung heroes

In the last few years of their lives, my parents both had health issues that often required the need for home health care. Some of it was medical, such as visits from a nurse, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and in my dad’s case, a hospice team. And some of it was non-medical — companionship, help with meals and medication, transportation — primarily for my mother until she moved into the memory care community Avita of Stroudwater.

I don’t know how we would have managed if that care hadn’t been available. As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our communities, home care providers are still going into people’s homes and doing what needs to be done and sometimes, more. In the past several weeks, I have participated in a couple of online meetings with a large group of home care providers here in southern Maine. After hearing about their challenges and how they are trying to meet them, and witnessing their positive attitudes, I have come to the conclusion that they are among our unsung heroes.

Here we are, hunkered down and self-isolating to help protect ourselves and others from the virus that causes COVID-19. And there they are, with their protective gear, their compassion, expertise, and their humble courage going into homes to make sure people are safe and healthy.

I would like to give a loud shout-out to all the home health care providers out there. Thank you, thank you!

And now, a story from one of those unsung heroes. Hannah Bonaventura.

Inside Hannah Bonaventura's car
Hannah’s “office”

I’ve been an occupational therapist now for nearly 14 years, 10 of them in home care. This will be my ninth year with Interim Healthcare. I work with a strong team of RN’s, physical therapists (PTs), and social workers (MSWs) to help manage people’s health within their homes. The role of home care has not changed, however, our goal of keeping people safe within the community has become more imperative.

When an individual leaves the hospital or rehab after a medical event our team is often referred in to assist with the transition into the home environment. As an occupational therapist, my role is to assess how an individual is managing their daily activities and navigation of their home. I provide recommendations and training to provide the support needed to help the person maximize their independence and safety in the home. In conjunction with a PT and RN, we manage health conditions and safety concerns, minimizing the person’s risk of rehospitalization.

Day to day our jobs haven’t changed significantly. We have always maintained high standards with our hygiene practices. We now wear masks for all home visits and are even more attentive to sanitization. Safety has always been a priority when we provide care, now this means an additional layer of protective equipment. As it has been frequently covered, PPE has become more difficult to acquire, fortunately, we have a creative leadership team that was able to find the needed equipment for us.

Hannah Bonaventura and RN in protective gear
Hannah and Glenn, the RN on her team, in their PPE getting ready to see a patient with COVID-19 exposure

Our team is preparing to take on more challenging patients which will require some changes. Visits with these patients will require face shields, goggles, face mask, gown, and booties — equipment that is not typically utilized in home care. Vigilance is required when donning and then doffing this equipment to maintain safety and prevent contamination.

Despite extensive education on CDC guidelines and proper PPE use, it’s hard not to feel a bit of anxiety. This virus is unlike anything I’ve encountered in my career to date. I’m concerned for my patients, for my coworkers, and for my family. I know we will get through this, but in the meantime rest assured that my team and I are helping keep your loved one safe in their home.

Hannah Bonaventura. Occupational Therapist, Interim HealthCare

Time to say thank you to home care providers!

Hannah, thank you for the work you are doing, and thank you to the rest of your team and to everyone who is providing home care. Stay safe and healthy. We need you.

If you would like more information about home care resources (and more) in Maine, I’d like to recommend Maine Senior Guide as a great place to start looking.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.