There's No Care Like Home Care
- Written by Lynne Feldman
If there’s one thing everyone wants, it’s a sense of belonging. The Adult Family Care (AFC) program at LifePath (formerly Franklin County Home Care) helps enable adults of all ages to belong to a community, and more importantly, to a family.
Specifically, AFC helps adults age 16 or older who—because of medical, physical, cognitive, or mental health conditions—cannot safely live alone. Family members or individuals wanting to care for a person in need can become an AFC caregiver. They are compensated for their care with a tax-exempt stipend and room and board.
Families of all sorts make wonderful caregivers. “Our families range from single people, couples, to families with children,” explains Janet Calcari, AFC Program Director, “and our clients range from 16 to 98 years old, with all kinds of diagnoses and all kinds of needs.”
Some families come pre-made: the parent of an adult child with a developmental disability, the child of a parent with a physical disability, or a friend of someone who has a medical condition may qualify to become a caregiver. Other homes are created by matching individuals or families who wish to open their homes and become caregivers with someone in need.
“We support the client and the caregiver as much as they need,” says Calcari. Each caregiver is paired with a nurse and a care manager, who are there as advocates, providing information and education to caregivers to ensure the caregiver has a proper understanding of the needs of the person in their care. In addition to monthly visits, nurses and care managers are always available by phone and for crisis visits.
- Written by Jessica Riel
Meet Melanie, CHHA, serving elders and people with disabilities for nearly 40 years
Melanie has been a certified home health aide (CHHA) for nearly four decades.
“I have been in the home care field for 37 years,” she says. “I was trained in high school as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and home health aide (HHA).”
For the past 19 years, Melanie has worked for Collective Home Care, which is based out of Hatfield, Mass., and has been in operation since November 1, 1999. “I have been with this agency since it opened,” says Melanie.
In addition to working with elders and people with disabilities in their homes, Melanie has been doing the scheduling for Collective Home Care’s aides and clients for the past one and a half years. “I love working with the elderly,” says Melanie. “They have so much knowledge on so many things.”
After all these years, Melanie has worked with many different clients. “I have met some wonderful people over the years. I was with one client for 12 years and I still miss him.”
She is most proud of “helping to keep people in their homes for as long as possible.”
If you’re thinking about joining the growing home care field, there are many openings across our region. “If you are a people person, this is a great job,” says Melanie. “You get to hear lots of interesting things.”
Although LifePath does not employ home healthcare workers, the home care agencies with which the nonprofit service agency contracts are frequently looking to add to their team of professionals. Find links to these agencies here.
- Written by Jessica Riel
Mother and daughter maintain their independence together in their family home
Donna Gates grew up in Franklin County. Now age 77, she lives in Montague with her mother, Martha Shibilo, who is in her 90s. But for many years, Donna lived and worked in the city.
“I left Greenfield in 1959 when I was 19 years old,” says Donna, “and moved to Washington, DC.” Donna worked for the government at first, and soon moved onto a job in the insurance industry, where she stayed for 11 years. Then it was time for a change. After graduating from a training program, Donna took a job with AT&T, where she put in 18 years. “And in my last eight years I became a building engineer, which was totally awesome and favorite job in my whole life.”
Her working years came to an end when her health changed. “At age 58 I had back surgery and couldn't work anymore,” Donna says. Eventually she decided to move back to New England to be there for her aging mother. She inherited a house from her family and moved in next door to Martha. “This house is over 300 years old; it’s been in my family all that time,” Donna says, adding that the house was built by a grandfather several generations back.
A month after moving home, Donna traveled out of state to visit her best friend. “When I came back a week later,” Donna says, “she had been sick the whole time I was gone.” Martha ended up in the hospital, followed by a stay in a skilled nursing facility. “I did a lot of talking with social workers, and it was decided that she probably should not go home and live alone for a while. So that while stretched out.”
When Martha was ready to leave the nursing home, she moved in with Donna. “I live with my daughter,” says Martha. “Well, I just couldn't live alone anymore. I was sort of sickly.”
In order to provide the right care for her mother to live at home with her, Donna connected with LifePath, a nonprofit agency offering options for independence to elders, caregivers, and people with disabilities. Before long, a case manager set both women up with home care services.
“Well, we have an absolutely marvelous lady who comes three times a week,” says Donna, “two hours for me, three for my mother.”
“We've been very lucky with the woman we have and everything,” says Martha, “extremely lucky. She comes, I take my bath, you know, personal things, too.”
“She does everything,” says Donna, “but cooking and doing laundry. She goes to the grocery store for us; she helps my mom with her showers; she makes the bed; she vacuums; she dusts. [She] does any personal healthcare needs that my mother might have.”
“And she's very friendly and does anything you want her to do,” Martha adds.
It’s been about five years now since Martha moved in. “It's not easy sometimes for either one of us, but personally I wouldn't have it any other way. It's what I knew I would always end up doing.”
Martha is happy to be able to live with Donna. “Now living in my house as opposed to in her house is not uncomfortable for her,” explains Donna, “because she spent a lot of time here with her grandmother, with my great grandmother, and she actually has her room upstairs that she calls her room. It's always been her room.”
Like Donna, Martha also spent time away from her hometown. Beginning in World War II, Martha devoted eight years to the Women’s Army Corps. “Basically other than that,” says Donna, “she has always either lived in Greenfield or Turners Falls. This is her area; this is where all her lifetime friends were. Now I could have done, as a couple of my other friends did, and have her move to DC area to be with me. That was not right. This is her environment and as long as she's happy in her environment, she's going to be more healthy in her environment.”
Donna appreciates that LifePath is able to help people in situations like her and her mother’s and encourages others to reach out for support. “Number one, if you need help, ask for it. Don't ever be too proud not to ask. Everybody needs help at one point in their life. I would recommend contacting LifePath. Have them come in and evaluate you and see what your needs are. Don't just sit there. You've put into this life, take from it what you can.”
Thanks to services from LifePath, Donna and Martha are able to maintain their independence living together in their family home, and it means a lot to both of them. “My experience with LifePath,” says Donna, “even talking to people on the phone, has been very positive. I have found no negative people.”
When asked to sum it all up, Donna says, “Simple. One word: secure. I'll add a second one: grateful.”
- Written by Jessica Riel
Regina LoBello: “It’s a wonderful service.”
In the center of the small New England town of Whately, Mass., Regina LoBello lives in a beautiful home built in 1763, just over a decade before the American Independence. Flags flutter outside the house, and in the garden, flowers grow to make nectar for the bees. Behind the house, the grass stretches back to a vista overlooking the Pioneer Valley and the mountains beyond. After many years away, building a life with her husband, family, and several family businesses, Regina returned here to her childhood home. “I do feel very comfortable here,” says Regina. “I hope I can stay as long as possible.”
When Regina was ten years old, she moved with her family to this house, where she spent her childhood years. Soon enough, it was time for high school. “At that time we had a choice of either going to Northampton High School or (it was called) Deerfield High School. Of course, being from the country, Northampton was the city to me, and I wanted to go to the city. So I went to Northampton High School.”
Northampton High was where Regina met her husband, Vincent. “We were high school sweethearts,” she says. After graduation, “he went to college and I went into nurse’s training,” Regina explains, and then they were married.
“Three years after we were married, we opened the first nursing home in Easthampton, Massachusetts.” They ran the business for 15 years. “With two little children, I don’t know how we did it.”
After selling the business, Vincent became a business manager at a local private school. “I opened a ladies dress shop at the Hadley Village Barn Shops,” says Regina, which she ran for several years, until the family decided to sell the store and buy a restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine.
“The name of the restaurant was Vincent’s,” says Regina. “We were known for our prime rib. And then my husband passed away after ten years of business.” Regina’s son had gone to school for hotel and restaurant management, and he, his wife, and Regina continued to run the restaurant. “My two daughters worked there also, while they were in college, waitressing and doing all kinds of odd jobs. So it was a family business, which was wonderful.”
Then, in the early 1990s, Regina moved back to the family home in Whately. “The house really needed a lot of work. My mom and dad, you know, they were very content with things the way they were, and they basically lived downstairs. The upstairs had not had any attention in a long, long time. So I set out to restore the house,” says Regina, “and I opened a bed and breakfast.” Regina says that the process of restoring the home and opening a new business was “really great medicine” after the loss of her husband. “It kept me so busy and so focused and all – it was really grand.”
Regina enjoyed running a B&B. “It was just wonderful. I just met so many people from all over the country. I had clients even that came over from Germany, England, and Scotland.” Many of her guests were visiting Historic Deerfield and other local places of interest or were the family of students at Deerfield Academy, and would return year after year. “They just got to be part of the family. I would think, ‘You know where your room is.’ I enjoyed that an awful lot.”
After about 15 years, says Regina, “it just was time to give it up. It got to be a lot.”
Around 2011, Regina began to lose her vision, “but I could still manage,” she says. A few years later, in the early hours of Christmas morning, Regina had a heart attack. It was then that a woman in her town told her about LifePath. Regina called and was matched with Laurie Dickson, a case manager, who set Regina up with home care services.
“The services are mainly to do my grocery shopping and to make sure that my kitchen and bathroom and everything are clean,” says Regina. “I feel so good once that gal has been here and gone! I know that things are the way they should be and that the spiders haven’t taken over the house. In an old home, that isn’t even a joke. They do love old homes.”
Regina’s daughter who lives in eastern Massachusetts comes a couple times a month to stay for a bit, catching up with her mom and lending a hand. Just recently, she enjoyed getting some fresh air with her son out on her back lawn, hitting golf balls into the horizon. “It’s just wonderful to be outside.”
Regina feels that, if she were to need more assistance, she has options with LifePath.
“I think you’re all just wonderful,” says Regina. “It’s a wonderful service.”
- Written by Jessica Riel
“This was the best thing that could have happened.”
Duane Cloutier, age 79, and her son Kevin Miller own the land where their home is in Tuners Falls. “I’m right here,” says Duane. “I’m home all the time. It’s just absolutely perfect.”
That’s not something that Duane could always say. For eight years, Duane was in and out of nursing facilities. “There’s a lot I don’t remember [about that time],” she says. Though she wanted to be at home, her husband and son weren’t able to take care of her on their own anymore.
In 2011, thanks to support from LifePath, Duane moved home to her husband, who passed away in 2016, and Kevin. Home is “so much better,” says Duane. “Everything is what you have in your life. It feels like home. A nursing home feels like a nursing home.”
Linda Micka is Duane’s case manager at LifePath. Linda helps to coordinate the services that help Duane age in place. “I don’t really have any complaints. They’re very, very good to me,” says Duane, adding that if any issue ever came up, she knows she can call Linda.
“I have been very happy. They helped me get my insurance to pay for my bed,” says Duane, adding that she would not have known what to do without LifePath. Equipment like her hospice bed helps Duane stay living in her own home, where she wants to be. “I got a special bed, electric lift chair,” Duane says. “Without it, I couldn’t have come home.”
Duane enjoys looking out the window from her bed, where she can watch the birds and the rabbits. Kevin will throw peanuts outside to attract the animals his mother loves. Just recently a baby deer came through. “I saw a bear back a while ago!”
Duane’s home health aides help her move from bed to chair and back during the day using her Hoyer lift. From her chair, Duane can enjoy day shows on TV; favorites include The Steve Wilkos Show, Cops, and The Price Is Right. She loves Steven Seagal. “If I could get to meet him – oh, my achin’ back! He’s the best of the best.”
Home health aides come four times a day, so Duane always has someone there to help her. “It’s just perfect. They come at the times they’re supposed to,” says Duane. “I got the best crew in the world.”
Duane feels respected by those who come to help her in her home. She is not afraid to tell them what she wants, and she feels in control. “I can do pretty much anything I want. I may need some help, but I do it. It’s nice to have freedom.”
Duane has set goals for what she’d like to be able to do. “I’ve pretty much accomplished quite a bit,” she says. She is no longer bedbound. Just in the past year, she was able to meet her goal of using the Hoyer lift to transfer out of the bed to the chair. “It’s a very good change on my back and my hips,” says Duane.
She’s been able to get in her wheelchair and go to the kitchen table to help with food prep, peeling potatoes. “I’ve always loved working with food.” A former chef at UMass Amherst and owner of a catering business, food has long played an important role in Duane’s life. “It was a lot of work but a lot of fun because I loved it.” People still call and visit Duane to ask for advice when planning food for special occasions.
Her goal this summer is to spend some time outside. She has a motorized riding scooter that she got through TRIAD. “As soon as it’s warm enough, I’ll say, ‘Okay, it’s time to go out.’”
“It feels so good to do what I want to do,” says Duane.
Kevin checks on everything to make sure it’s how his mother wants it to be. “He’s going to find out a way I can do it, or there’s no way possible.” Kevin trusts that things will be done right while his mother is in the home health aides’ care, so he is comfortable to leave. “My son comes and goes. It’s so nice,” Duane says. “My son is my right arm. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s a savior on wheels.”
Kevin cooks, picks up groceries, and helps his mother order new clothes, and twice a week the home is cleaned by a vendor hired through LifePath.
Duane’s daughter lives in South Carolina, and the two women talk a lot on the phone. “She’s nice, good to me and calls all the time.”
Duane is happy to be aging in place in her own home with her loved ones close by. “This was the best thing that could have happened.”