For the last 18 months, Nicole Hartman has witnessed the care and compassion of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) firsthand while serving as Chief Financial Officer. However, her experience became personal this past February when her ailing parents needed extra support, and VNA’s private duty services program was a perfect match for their needs.
Nicole’s father had just gone on dialysis, and her mother was experiencing significant memory loss as she started at VNA. Later, her father had a stroke, which prompted the need for private duty services to assist with his dialysis and help her mother with cooking, driving and other activities her father had been doing up until the stroke.
Due to her father’s dialysis, many long-term care facilities wouldn’t take him, so private duty services were a way to care for him at home, especially during the days when Nicole and her brother were working.
VNA visited Monday through Friday for eight hours a day, helping with cleaning, cooking, bathing, shopping and medication administration. Anything her parents could possibly need help with, the VNA team was by their side to provide.
When selecting a caregiver for the family, Nicole feels extra care was taken to make sure they were a good fit. “We had a very positive experience with our caregiver,” says Nicole. “[VNA] really worked to choose someone to fit my parents’ needs and personalities. They spent quite a bit of time with my parents in the intake process before even assigning a caregiver. She was with us every step of the way, and the type of care I saw her give my father toward the end of his life, I would not have expected from a private duty service.”
What impressed Nicole most about VNA’s private duty services was how integrated they were with other VNA services. As her father’s illness advanced, he was supported by VNA’s advanced illness management (AIM) program and, eventually, hospice. “Their caregiver was incredibly integrated with the AIM team,” says Nicole. “That team approach informs how they best care for patients.”
VNA’s holistic approach was also important for her and her parents. VNA’s approach influenced care beyond the expected responsibilities of a private duty service. “That holistic approach is key to patient care,” says Nicole. “There were also social workers, chaplains and bereavement counselors when the family needed them.”
The approach allowed Nicole’s father to be more involved in his care as well. “My father worked with all of the different clinical staff to develop his care plan and make sure he was as comfortable as possible,” says Nicole. “He took advantage of asking for a chaplain and some of those other non-clinical support services. He was very involved.”
Nicole’s father passed a few months ago, and her mother is now in assisted living. Through the many challenges, the family is grateful for VNA’s care and everything the various program teams have done for them.
“It’s been a positive experience all around. I want to share that with other people. I hear it every day as an employee of VNA, but I’ve also actually experienced it.”