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Archive for the ‘medical care’ Category

Today, I want you to meet David.  More importantly, I want you to meet David’s feet.  I talked about David in last week’s post, and David has even been mentioned in the Enquirer.

But I don’t know if you really understand David’s feet.  Frostbite sounds bad, but not horrifying.  I think David’s feet are horrifying.  Horrifying because they display the needless injuries inflicted on everyday people who can’t afford medical care.  Horrifying because they are the result of honest work, not substance abuse or living on the streets.  In fact, David lost his job because of the injury, not vice versa.

I’ve posted pictures before to show you what we do at the Respite.  You’ve seen clients after healing and recuperation, after housing and health.  Here are pictures of what an earlier stage in that process looks like:

Can you say "no" to healthcare for the homeless. . .

Can you say "no" to healthcare for the homeless. . .

. . . after seeing how bad it really can be?

. . . after seeing how bad it really can be?

People say, "I don't want my tax dollars to fund homeless services."

People say, "I don't want my tax dollars to be a free ride for someone who's just lazy."

But we don't help "the homeless," we help people.

See any lazy people here?

It’s easy to write off the issue of homelessness through stereotypes.  It’s not as easy to deny urgently needed medical care because of assumptions about past actions or potential for the future.  The health care needs of homeless individuals in our community are serious and growing.  People like David need help now or they risk drastic consequences.

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We call those who are served by the Respite “clients” for several reasons – it connotates respect and self-worth, helps to maintain professionalism, and it’s accurate, if somewhat formal.

One of our clients passed away yesterday morning, and calling him a client already seems wrong.  Mr. W was a friend as well as a person who came to the Respite to recover.  Despite the severity of his illness he was always in good spirits, always polite.  In fact, he was cheerful to the point that his death took some of us by surprise. 

After becoming ill one afternoon, he took a cab to the emergency room, telling his friends on the way out to help themselves to his cigarettes; he knew he wasn’t coming back. 

Although we know that everyone served by the Respite is ill, we are never truly prepared to lose them.  Rest in peace, Mr. W.  We miss you.

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The following is a guest post from Michael, author of the SLO Homeless blog.  Michael was once homeless himself and provides his perspective on homeless medical needs, recovery, etc. below.  Be sure to visit Michael’s blog as well!

 

There is no cure for the common cold. That’s just the reality of life. The best a person can hope to do is go to the local pharmacy and buy one of the many over the counter remedies – which only make it easier to cope with the symptoms at best. If the symptoms are a bit more severe, the person may take a day or two off from work and “sleep it off.”

 

For the millions of American’s who just happen to be a part of this nation’s homeless population, even the common cold can make an already stressful life all the more harsh.

 

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Health Care and Homelessness,

 

“Poor health is closely associated with homelessness. For families struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.”

 

However, for those who are homeless, health care issues do not stop there.

 

While many communities offer some form of government sponsored indigent health care services for their local homeless, lack of adequate funding severely limits the quality of medical services available to the homeless – particularly for those who have chronic health issues. For those who have on-going medical needs for such conditions as diabetes, respiratory or cardiac diseases, addiction disorders, and mental heath issues, the lack of stable housing makes it a near impossibility to keep their conditions from worsening.

 

Additionally, a lack of accessibility to proper nutrition, regular hygiene care and even sleep, often times means that the homeless have a less robust auto-immune system. This places them at risk of contracting numerous bacterial and viral infections.

 

Among those homeless who utilize local homeless shelters, the incidence of upper respiratory infections is higher than those of their non-homeless counterparts. Since most homeless shelters utilize a dormitory style methodology for providing shelter, this forces the clientele into close proximity with others. Consequently, if one or two of the homeless have an upper respiratory infection, there is a high probability that the majority of the clientele will also develop the infection. It is not unusual for many homeless to develop “shelter cough.”

 

There is a higher price to be paid by the community when there is a lack of proper medical services for the area’s homeless.

 

Although most of a community’s homeless are aware of the availability of medical services, many of them do not utilize these services immediately upon becoming sick. This is often times a result of the distances that must be traveled to obtain these services. In some communities, the homeless support services agencies are located in a more remote or industrialized section of the municipality while medical services may perhaps be located on the “other side of town.”

 

As a result, a medical condition – which had it been treated at the onset – worsens until the person finds themselves with no other option but a visit to the emergency room. In the long term, these emergency room visits cost the community more in taxpayer dollars than it would to fund preventative and supportive medical services.

 

Moreover, since the homeless are unable to pay for emergency room visits, the hospital is required to “write off” the costs. This writing off of costs isn’t completely dismissed however. They are ultimately passed on to the rest of the community as hospitals are required to increase their prices to cover their operational expenses.

 

With the ubiquity of prepaid services these days, it might be wise for us as a society to take that approach when it comes to providing adequate medical services to our nations’ homeless.

 

It’s up to us. We can choose to take the more cost effective route and “pre-pay” for those services; or we can choose to pay after the fact. But, have no doubt about it – the invoice will have to be paid for one way or another.

 

It’s been my experience that it’s less expensive to get it right the first time, than it is to have pay the extra costs the second time around.

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May 6 – May 12 was nurse’s appreciation week, so it seems only fitting that I take a moment here to appreciate the Center for Respite Care nursing staff.  Now, we all know that nurses are pretty special folks.  They take care of us when we’re very sick (and cranky) and, in the case of Respite clients, work to resolve homelessness as well.

Not only do our LPNs help clients learn to self-administer medications, they provide dressing changes, help coordinate appointments, take referrals, evaluate clients, keep track of loads of paperwork, and millions of other tasks that probably would make me feel a bit sick!  Patient care assistants and unlicensed assistants must run miles a day helping with some of the tasks above and more!  Plus, they keep us staffed through the night, making sure our clients are safe and healthy 24 hours a day.

Along the way, these wonderful people provide the moral support necessary to encourage our clients – to convince them that homelessness is a situation, not an identity.  That’s a pretty tall order to fill, but they do it every day.

Our clients are hardly typical, and they don’t exactly have standard hospital surroundings.  They share a common television and split living space with 2-3 other clients, all of whom are too sick to be in the hospital, but not well enough to care for themselves.  They are definitely not well enough to return to the streets! 

Special clients require a special nursing staff.  Ours is a group that is willing to deal with their nursing duties as well as the normal “living together”-type issues that arise.   They know how to support a person that needs help without enabling someone that needs to learn independence.  They balance medical and social needs, appointments, meetings, referrals, phone calls, and many other issues that arise throughout the day.

To all the hardworking, loving nurses out there – thank you!  And a special thanks to my amazing coworkers for the work that they do. 

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Respite employee Cleon Hughes was once homeless; Photo courtesy of Jack Kues

Cleon Hughes is something of an unofficial Center for Respite Care spokesman.  Years ago, he arrived at Respite as a homeless and sick; today he works with us.   At our Community Reception on April 10, Hughes shared his story. 

 

During a semi-professional football try-out in December 2005, Hughes sustained a serious leg injury.  Unable to work and without medical insurance, he became homeless as he sought surgery to repair the injury.

 

Months passed, but no one was able to help.  Hughes became bitter, wondering if he could ever gain meaningful employment and housing.  After six months at the Mt. Airy Men’s shelter, he was referred to the Center for Respite Care in June 2006.  Respite staff worked with Hughes to schedule the surgical procedure and cared for him during his recovery.  Today, Hughes has recovered full functionality of his right leg.

 

“I got to the Respite and I could not believe that all these strangers were pulling for me,” says Hughes, “Without them, I’d don’t know where I’d be today.  Being able to recover here was truly a blessing.”  Today, Hughes is a Personal Care Assistant at Respite, where he helps others regain hope in their journeys out of homelessness.

 

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Please Join Us!

COMMUNITY RECEPTION

Thursday, April 10, 4-6 p.m.

Refreshments provided

Come visit and learn about the difference homeless medical recovery care makes in our community.

3550 Washington Ave. Cincinnati 45229

Restoring Health, Transforming Lives

(513)621-1868

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This story is the first in what I hope will become a multi-part feature of the true stories of Center for Respite Care clients.  Our client’s name has been changed to protect his privacy, but the article itself is not fiction.

From Morning to Night: Rick’s Story
“My sister didn’t let me drink in the house or come home drunk so I would, literally, go to the store, get a six pack, drink it and then sit out on a cold freezing bench all night long, just to get that alcohol. I needed that alcohol in me.”

As a state-qualifying wrestler in high school, Rick* never gave much thought about the possibility of being homeless one day. When he arrived at the Center for Respite Care, however, his leg was broken in two places, his cast was in tatters, and his hand was badly injured from a piece of embedded glass. He seemed far from his days as a star athlete.

“I had no crutches, no medications, no idea of what I should do,” he says, recalling how quickly possessions get stolen at shelters. “People are always watching, but you can’t watch your stuff all the time. You look away for one second and it’s gone. That’s your everything – it only takes a split second and everything you have is gone.”

So how did Rick become homeless? A turning point was the death of his father. Rick had taken care of both parents until his mother’s death in 2002, and continued to care for his father until his death in 2004. Having left college years earlier, Rick watched friends graduate, get married, and start on lives of their own.

While caring for his parents, Rick’s drinking continued, but it wasn’t until his father’s death in 2004 that Rick found himself unable to function. He did odd jobs for a landlord in return for an apartment, but when his building was sold, Rick was evicted. His sister took him to a local shelter and he later completed inpatient treatment for alcoholism. When a close friend relapsed the following summer, however, Rick followed, spiraling downward once more.

Back at the shelter months later, Rick’s alcoholism escalated as he became ensnared in the vicious cycle of bumming money, buying alcohol, and getting drunk. Looking back, he remembers the toughness of life on the streets, saying, “If I would’ve stayed down there, I’d be dead by now. . . people don’t realize how quickly you can become homeless, and how hard it is to get out of it. In order to get help, you have to know these places [social service agencies] exist, know how to get there, and find some way to do what they tell you.”

Rick sought help, but other programs couldn’t accept him because of his alcohol abuse. One social worker, however, pulled him aside. “If you really want help,” she said, “be at the front desk [of the shelter] tomorrow at 8:00am.” Rick was there by 6:30am.

At the Center for Respite Care, Rick finally got the medical treatment he needed. “In one day, I went from being barefoot on the street to having clean clothes, something nice to eat, clean, sober people around me, new crutches, and medicine. From morning to night, I was living in a totally different way.”

Today, Rick is looking forward to starting physical therapy for his hand and hoping that his broken leg will heal properly without surgery. He is working toward permanent sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous and reconciling with family. “My sisters really want to see me be sober,” he says, with a hint of sadness, “I don’t feel left out—I left myself out—but I miss being around them, just being there for them.”

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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