- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 20 July 2017
“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.”