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News Roundup: September 11, 2015

Bringing specialty care home:A team approach to wound healing

Published by The Union
September 11, 2015

An important relationship exists between home health care providers, patients, and the physicians overseeing a patient’s care.

Home health care brings nurses, medical social workers, home health aides and physical, occupational and speech therapists to a patient’s home when complex health issues make it difficult for the patient to get to frequent doctor’s visits.

“Home Care staff members become the eyes and ears of the physician, and together they work to restore patients to their level of health and function before an acute illness or event,” said Barbara Boyer, manager of Sierra Nevada Home Care.

This type of careful observation is especially pertinent in the case of wound healing. Sierra Nevada Home Care and the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center have been collaborating on the management of wounds since the center opened five and a half years ago.

Helen Van Woerkom, who turned 92 last month, is one patient who has benefited from this collaborative care. She was seen regularly at the Wound Care Center following radiation treatment for skin cancer on her leg. Despite extensive therapies, the wound was slow to heal and she eventually received a skin graft from U.C. Davis.

In between visits with specialists, however, Van Woerkom was visited by staff from Sierra Nevada Home Care.

Van Woerkom’s daughter, Marie Reed, was grateful for the care that her mother received at home.

“I literally could not have done it without the help of the Home Care staff,” she said.

Because Van Woerkom’s recovery went through several stages, different needs were addressed at various times.

“During the wound care process, Mom became wheelchair bound and Home Care sent a knowledgeable occupational therapist to her home and taught me how to make changes to her home so that she could navigate more safely and manage more independently,” Reed said.

According to Reed, a physical therapist also visited Van Woerkom and showed her how to carefully get in and out of her wheelchair, gave her strengthening exercises, and taught her how to safely use her walker when she was able to leave the wheelchair behind.

Wound care specialist RNs would visit frequently to monitor the healing process.

Dr. Bruce Lattyak, medical director of the SNMH Wound Center, said care provided in the patient’s home can ensure that patients who need frequent dressing changes or have mobility or transport limitations receive needed treatment.

“The Home Care nurses are also instrumental in alerting Wound Center providers about complications that require urgent intervention, such as an infection,” said Lattyak.

For individuals with complex health care issues or limited mobility, being seen in the home can help in other ways as well. Health care professionals can evaluate the home environment, nutrition, activity level and identify factors that may be preventing further healing and recovery.

“There are multiple reasons patients are referred for Home Care services, including, recovering after a hospitalization, dealing with the effects of a chronic disease, and recovering from stroke, traumatic injury or falls,” said Boyer.

Today, Van Woerkom’s wound is healing as hoped, and she continues to receive weekly visits from home care staff.

“I’m extremely grateful for all I’ve learned from the Wound Care staff as well as the Home Care staff. I can’t imagine having to do this on my own without their help,” Reed said.

A physician referral is required for Home Care services. For more information, call Sierra Nevada Home Care at 530-274-6350. For information about the SNMH Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine Center, call 530- 272-8619.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.