By Sheila McAfee

Home health care offers a growing geriatric population a wide range of choices.

According to local providers, their care is sought for an expansive list of assistance, whether it be an hour or two of companionship, post-hospital care or hospice care.

Because there are so many different needs and so many different kinds of care, it is important to ask a lot of questions when faced with the decision of choosing home health care, said Krishelle Kohler of Eldercare Home Group, in Trenton.

She said the industry is saturated with providers, so information about the company is just as relevant as information about the care.

Find out how long the agency has been in business, she said, and whether or not the employees are employees or contracted personnel.  Home care agencies come and go, she said.

“Our aides are employees so we bond and insure them, and handle tax forms so the family doesn’t have to worry about filling out any IRS forms,” Kohler said.  “You don’t want something to happen and have the family having to pay through homeowner’s insurance.”

Eldercare began in 1989 after Julie Hooper and her husband, the late David Hooper, were caring for a neighbor.  Kohler, a family friend of the Hoopers, started with the agency on a temporary basis after she graduated from Western Michigan University in 1992. She never left, and now oversees the day-to-day operations with the assistance of Lynn Heyler.

Kohler also operates the Coachstop Manor, a residential healthcare facility in Trenton celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

While Eldercare’s aides offer private duty assistance, other agencies may offer care that is governed under state and/or federal guidelines because costs are covered through Medicare and Medicaid, or other insurance plans.

In that case, it is imperative to know that the staff and the company have all the required certification and licensing, Kohler said.

Trenton resident Renee Mackay is community liaison with Pace Home Health Care Inc. of Woodhaven and she said a trend she has noticed is that a majority of today’s patients are Baby Boomers, and their health issues are a sign of the times in which they were raised.

“It was an era when smoking was okay, dieting and exercise weren’t issues, and proper nutrition was not as understood as it is today,” said Mackay. “In hindsight, we are trying to play catch-up, and to illustrate this, notice the number of fitness centers and weight loss programs that are around.”

Pace provides skilled nursing care, physical, occupational and speech therapy, among many other individualized care.  Mackay’s role is to assist families in securing resources to improve the quality of care.

“Two key words these days are awareness and education,” said Mackay. “We want patients to have the knowledge about preventative and maintenance care.”

A relative newcomer to the field of home health care is Lynn Armatis, president and provider of In-Home Dental Care, Inc.

“I have been around dentistry all my life, and as our ‘tooth family’ grew older, I noticed that we wouldn’t see them because they were unable to get in for dental care,” said Armatis. “I wondered if there was a way to go to them.”

After three years of research and planning, Armatis was granted non-profit status by the State of Michigan. As a 501(c)3 agency, she is now pursuing funding possibilities, she said.

A 2004 graduate of University of Detroit Mercy, she works as a dental hygienist in her father’s practice, John Armatis Family Dentistry in Wyandotte.

She provides in-home care as a Michigan public access dental hygienist (PA161), devoting 40 more hours of her workweek to elderly and disabled clients throughout the tri-county area.

Among the procedures she offers are cleaning and flouride treatment, periodontal care, oral cancer screening and oral hygiene education.

“When I was younger, my mom (Cherie) would take me along with her for Christian service projects, and I always felt it was something I had to do, that I was forced to go along,” she said.  “But because of those experiences, as an adult I find it fulfilling to serve others.”

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