Getting help from health care givers can often seem difficult, and some of that is due to the different kinds of services that are available from various companies. When someone talks about home nursing care, what does that mean? Would the person that does that also help prepare meals, clean the house and take care of other duties while there? And getting all that paid for, who would do that?
Those questions were answered during the June 20 Castle Country Business Expansion and Retention general board meeting by Brett Jensen who is the Regional Manager for Homewatch Caregivers. The service is new to the area, but has been in business for many years across two continents. Yet the firm in the local area is run and staffed by people who live here and many who grew up here.
“I and my brother were the first twins born at Castleview Hospital,” said Brett Jensen, regional manager for HomewatchCaregivers, as he spoke to the Castle Country Business Expansion and Retention general board on June 20. “Our family has been serving Castle Country for five generations and I am proud of that. As I was growing up and as my parents were growing up here, we helped people in the community. And it wasn’t just people like next door neighbors that needed help, it was people that were mentally and physically handicapped, many who were kind of forgotten by everyone else.”
He said that service really does run in the family, citing the example of his mom having nine children, yet still doing other peoples laundry. He said as kids they would go help with house work or yard work to help other people as well. He said that many of those they helped became like family.
“Doing this at a young age made me keep an eye out for people that needed help,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of responsibility to help the people I could. When I started working I looked for a job in which I could do that. But nothing really fit. One day my grandma told my mom that she thought I would make a great nurse. I had no idea what nursing was about, but I took a CNA class and I found out what nursing really involved.”
Eventually he went on to get his RN and has been serving in the area for 10 years. He said he worked at care centers in the area and at the hospital as well. This gave him a basis for understanding what people were up against when they returned home after being discharged.
“I realized there was a problem, a hole in our community,” he said. “It was a lack of continuum of care outside those facilities.”
He said home health care itself in the area does a great job, but after that was finished there was nothing that broached the subject of long term health. He said that when he was introduced to home care he said he was excited to bring services to people that needed it. For the first two years he and a staff had been able to do a lot for people. Now they are employed by a new company in town, Homewatch Caregivers, and they are excited about the service they can provide in the future.
“Homewatch Caregivers as an idea and a company started business in 1980,” he said. “It now services people all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. The company moved into Utah in 2006 and now has six offices in northern Utah. Our office is the first south of Utah County.”
The company is set up to help people with all kinds of disabilities and situations where they cannot or a family member cannot take care of themselves. The region that Jensen oversees includes Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, Wayne, Sanpete and Uintah Counties.
But just who is the service for? He said it is for many people in different situations and is not as hard to get as some think it is.
“Tragic accidents, illnesses, or elderly people who cannot care for themselves? We can help with that,” said Jensen. “The main question people ask when they talk to us about these situations is ‘How are we going to pay for that?'”
Jensen said the number one funding source of this kind of care is Medicaid. The funding goes on until someone does not need it anymore.
“As long as there is a need, the money is there to pay for it,” stated Jensen.
He said there is also Medicaid money for people who need it after coming home from a rehabilitation center or hospital to remodel their home to fit their needs based on their disabilities. They can also have up to six hours of care a day from a CNA. They can also get a free health alert system and equipment to aide them, such as hospital beds, mechanical lifts, etc.
Medicaid also helps with meals. People in the program can go on-line and pick from a large menu. It is created by a company and put in a cold box that is sent to the person every two weeks. It just has to be heated up.
“And if the person gets to the point where they cannot stay at home, Medicaid pays up to $3500 per month for a care facility or assisted living center,” explained Jensen. “With all this, we can help people work it out and get quick results back from the state.”
He also said the services can be paid for by the VA. And there is also private long term care insurance that can be purchased.
“Private pay works too,” he said. “It is not as expensive as many people think it is to have care for a few hours a day.”
Jensen then described what home care exactly is.
“It is specifically about the cares and activities that are involved in being a human being,” he stated. “All the things that happen every day to function. In the industry we call these the activities of daily living.”
He said services include bathing, dressing, personal grooming and hygiene, light house keeping, laundry as well as meal preparation and planning. There is also companionship care.
“What we do not do is important to know as well,” he said. “We don’t send in physical therapists, occupational therapists or speech therapists. We do not do dressing changes or wound management. We also do not do medication administration.”
He said the overall benefits of using a service such as Homewatch Caregivers for people in need is that what is done relieves the stress on the medical infrastructure in the community.
“There is a term used in the industry and it is called ‘frequent flyers,'” he stated. “Some people come into the ER at the hospital or a clinic all the time because they have so many health problems. Many of those problems can be prevented by proper home care. What we do prevents such things as falls, poor habits, anxiety and depression. The care also helps reduce people’s pain levels. It helps reduce the pain/anxiety cycle. This problem has increased recently because of the federal mandate concerning opioid use, so many of the clients we have do not get as much pain reliever as they used to. A lot we serve say because of home care, they do not need as much because of what we do.”
He said that home care can also increase resources for mental health providers. The company is helping many Four Corners Mental Health clients in group homes and at private homes who can’t quite do everything for themselves. Helping them get stuff done or helping them with hard jobs really improves their position.
To be employed by HomeWatch Caregivers, people don’t need to be CNA’s, but if they want to become one, the company will pay for that training. He said the company offers good pay and benefits even for part time workers. In addition work schedules are flexible which is valuable to a lot of people.
“One of the best things about this business is the we get to take care of people we already care about. They are people we know in the community, people we have dealt with, people we have grown up with. There are better outcomes when people being taken care of know that the people that are taking care of them know about them and care about them,” concluded Jensen.