When the nurses and therapists of FirstHealth Home Care go into patient homes, they sometimes encounter heartbreaking situations.
- Patients choosing between medications and food because they don’t have money for both
- Lung disease patients living in homes without air conditioning
- Patients who can’t drive themselves to medical appointments and have no one to rely on for help
- Diabetic patients using out-of-date test strips
Because they believe in FirstHealth’s core purpose “to care for people,” these nurses and therapists have been known to dip into their own pockets to help out. With the availability of the Patient CARE Fund of The Foundation of FirstHealth, that’s no longer necessary.
“I firmly believe that, in many cases, it’s helped us keep patients at home and out of the hospital,” says Kim Harold-Maples, social work assistant with FirstHealth Home Care.
Patty Upham, director of FirstHealth Home Care, agrees. According to Upham, the “critical time” for patient assistance comes between a hospital discharge and the point at which patients can be connected with the best resources for their needs.
“Kim has some really good stories of how the funds have helped us to help our patients in the short term until we can find long-term solutions,” Upham says. “Some of our patients are in desperate need, and the Patient CARE Fund has been invaluable.”
What is now the Patient CARE Fund began in 1960 with a $100,000 donation from the Samuel G. Allen family of Moore County that included assistance for indigent care. That fund now exceeds $1 million and has provided assistance to numerous FirstHealth services.
“These funds supported the Telehealth monitoring pilot through FirstHealth Home Care as well as the community case management program that assists congestive heart failure and diabetic patients,” says Foundation President Kathleen Stockham.
For the past several years, FirstHealth Home Care alone has sought, and received, an annual grant distribution of $10,000 and it falls to Harold-Maples to see that the money is used wisely and well.
She approaches that goal by first investigating the availability of other community resources, something that is more easily accomplished in Moore County – which, she says, “has a good network of resources” – than some of the other Home Care-covered counties. FirstHealth Home Care also provides services in Richmond, Montgomery, Lee, Hoke and Scotland counties.
“With some of the other counties, resources are more scattered and it’s harder to catch where I can make referrals,” Harold-Maples says. “I have been a social worker for many years, and I do try other resources before I go to the Patient CARE Fund.”
A valuable Richmond County resource has been the Men’s Group of Pine Grove Baptist Church in Rockingham, which has allowed Harold-Maples to stretch her Patient CARE Fund money by taking on projects that would ordinarily cost more than the self-imposed maximum she tries to meet with Home Care projects.
The Pine Grove men, some with construction backgrounds and all with a strong sense of Christian mission, have built several ramps for wheelchair-bound Home Care patients.
“We’ll donate to them the cost of necessary materials, and they’ll build the ramp,” says Harold-Maples. “What would cost upwards of $600 or $800 will be a $250 cost for us.”
Harold-Maples’ go-to man with the Baptist group is Everett Kiker, a retired maintenance supervisor with the North Carolina Forestry Service. He says this “handyman ministry” began a dozen or so years ago when the church bought a trailer and equipped it for disaster relief. Since hurricanes and other major events are usually few and far between, the men started to take on smaller local projects.
“The tools were getting rusty,” says Kiker. “We decided we’d better use those tools and keep them limbered. It works out good. We’ve got somebody who can do just about anything, except plumbing.”
In a recent Home Care project, Kiker and his crew built a small deck and ramp for a wheelchair-bound patient who had previously hired someone to do the work. Unfortunately, the individual he hired used untreated lumber and the ramp soon rotted.
Observing her patient’s predicament, a Home Care physical therapist reached out to Harold-Maples who contacted Kiker. His group not only replaced the rotted structure, but also made some much-needed repairs to a door and windows in the patient’s home.
“It blesses us, because we are able to give back,” Kiker says. “If somebody out there needs our help, it’s a ministry we can share with. The ministry just really thrives. That’s the way it works with the Lord.”
Recent initiatives funded throughout the FirstHealth of the Carolinas coverage area by The Foundation of FirstHealth have also included The Daily Mile walking trails for elementary schools in Montgomery County. For more information on The Foundation of FirstHealth, visit www.firsthealth.org/foundation-of-firsthealth. For more information on FirstHealth Home Care, visit www.firsthealth.org/homecare.