Caring for Homebound Patients During Severe Weather Conditions

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National Home Care and Hospice Month begins with heroic stories from the Northeast. Nurses, therapists, and home health aides from BAYADA endure the extreme weather to provide critical care and support.

hurricane sandy damage fallen tree on car

Hurricane Sandy dropped a tree on BAYADA Nurse Rosa Matias' car

Everything that happened to me made me more determined to get there—you have to get there.

November is a time for celebrating the home health care and hospice nurses, therapists, home health aides, and other professionals who keep medically fragile people of all ages safe at home. This year, celebrating them during National Home Care and Hospice Month is even more meaningful as they ensure critical care and support for their patients—despite unrelenting storms.

Kim Torres, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) from Little Ferry, NJ, swam through six feet of ice-cold water while holding her two dogs until people on a boat finally rescued her. Convinced she lost everything, including her SUV which she watched float away, Torres immediately headed for a local shelter.

Despite her own dire situation, Torres worried about the 7-year-old boy with a seizure disorder whom she cares for five times a week for eight hours a day.

“He needs medications, daily monitoring, and is on a very, very strict diet,” said Torres. “I was hoping his family had electricity for the scales we need to measure his specific amounts of food, the blender to puree it, and the refrigerator to keep the cream he needs from spoiling. Otherwise, he can have a severe reaction and go into convulsions. It would set him back and increase the number of seizures he gets.”

Without a car or home, Torres still wanted to return to care for the boy. She temporarily moved in with a friend and BAYADA is paying for her cab fare back and forth to her patient’s house.

Mariama Sillah, a home health aide from Philadelphia, went to the home of her patient who is 100 years old, bedbound, and receives care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the storm Monday evening, several trees fell in the neighborhood blocking roads and causing the home to lose power.

With no other caregivers able to access the home, Mariama stayed with her patient, keeping her warm and safe, and providing peace of mind for the patient’s daughter, who lives in Boston. On Wednesday, an ambulance finally accessed the home and transported the patient to a facility until the power was restored to her home the following week.

Mary Figueroa, an LPN from Brick, NJ, cares for a medically fragile five-year-old girl with what some refer to as a HICU—a home intensive care unit. She uses a mechanical ventilator to breathe, a pulse oximeter to measure the amount of oxygen in her blood, a suction machine to remove secretions, and a feeding pump for nourishment.

On the way to her patient’s home, Torres took several alternate routes because of flooding and other road hazards. At one point, a bent telephone pole loomed over her car.

When she finally got to her patient’s neighborhood, downed live electrical wires and downed trees framed the street. She left her car behind and walked to her patient’s home, which had lost electricity and was running on a back-up generator to power the equipment that keeps her alive.

“Everything that happened to me made me more determined to get there—you have to get there,” said Figueroa. “I didn’t want my patient’s parents having to take her to the hospital. Medically fragile children like her are basically on life support, and we don’t want to send them to the hospital where there are more germs. We keep them safe at home and that’s where they want to be.”

Many BAYADA support professionals, working from multiple locations in the darkness and charging their phones in their cars, put their own crises on the backburner to ensure the medically fragile patients received the in-home care they needed.

More than 5,000 BAYADA employees supported 6,000 BAYADA patients throughout NJ and NY. Support professionals secured cab services for nurses, therapists, and aides to ensure they could get to and from their patients’ homes.

“I am humbled and grateful to all of those who went above and beyond to ensure that our clients were cared for and supported through this crisis,” said BAYADA Founder and President Mark Baiada. “As new power outages occurred, gasoline supplies depleted, and downed trees and flooding continued, everyone pulled together to ensure that our clients and employees were okay.”

Volunteers from the BAYADA offices in southern New Jersey delivered containers of gas to those in affected areas in northern New Jersey. As they arrived, dedicated nurses, therapists, and aides lined up in their cars, grateful that they could get to the homes of their patients.

Torres, now back in her own home and salvaging what she can, is working on getting another car. She realizes that things could have been worse.

“Things can get replaced,” she said. “I have patience. I’m going to be fine. I’m back on my feet, and I’m just happy to be able to help.”

Founded in 1975 by J. Mark Baiada, BAYADA Home Health Care provides nursing, rehabilitative, therapeutic, hospice, and assistive care services to children, adults, and seniors in the comfort of their homes. Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia, BAYADA employs more than 18,000 nurses, home health aides, therapists, medical social workers, and other home health care professionals who serve their communities in 25 states from more than 250 offices. For more information, visit http://www.bayada.com.

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Jim Armstrong
BAYADA Home Health Care
(856) 273-4613
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