Friends in need

Oak Harbor couple found help they didn't know existed

  • Wednesday, September 27, 2000 5:00am
  • News

“Everett Epley was pretty sick when he ended up in Whidbey General Hospital last January.He was battling pneumonia, a bad heart, poor circulation, and breathing problems, but when it was time to leave the hospital, he didn’t like the idea of going into a nursing home. His wife, Joan, didn’t like that idea either. So, as soon as the doctor would allow it, Epley, 69, went home. But he still needed a lot of nursing. There was the nebulizer machine to deal with, and daily oxygen, and 15 different pills to take. Joan Epley wasn’t quite sure how she was going to manage. But as soon as they got home, she says, Home Health Care nurses started coming. First they came four times a week, then three times a week.The Epleys were amazed. They just came. We didn’t know anything about it, Joan said. But their doctor had requested help for them from Whidbey General Hospital’s Home Health Care program. They were absolutely wonderful, Joan said, in a phone interview last week. They showed me how to do things I’d never done before.Like sorting out the 15 pills Everett has to take – there are eight pills that have to be taken five days of the week, and nine others that are prescribed for Monday and Friday. They never rushed. They would always take the time to explain it, Joan said. Naturally I was nervous. I didn’t want to make a mistake.The frosting on top came when the Epleys learned that the Home Health Care nurses wouldn’t charge any more than the Medicare reimbursement for their services. We did not have to pay one penny, Joan said. That was a relief, because they had medical bills from the hospital stay, and Everett’s medicines were costing hundreds of dollars each month. Then they met another group they had never heard of. Friends of Home Health Care stepped in with a gift of $800 to help pay for his prescriptions. The Epleys didn’t have to apply for the aid, because the Home Health Care nurses and the Friends work closely together, Friends president Dani Fowler explained. The Friends don’t ever go to the house, Fowler said. We just oversee the monies that are donated. That means managing a yearly allocation from United Way, organizing an annual letter-writing drive that brings in $5,000 to $6,000 in donations, accepting individual donations, and putting on one fund-raiser each year.The whole job is in the hands of a dozen people who make up the board of directors, Fowler said. And the Friends could use some more board members. If anyone is interested, they’ll be welcomed with open arms. Fowler is proud of the Friends’ effectiveness. I don’t think anyone [who needed help] has ever been turned down, she said. But she would like people to be more aware of the Home Health Care program. We want people to know that there is help for them if their health insurance doesn’t cover home health care, she said. Ninety percent of people have no idea that when they run out of funds, or if they have no insurance, that they can get some help.Judy Moore, director of home and community services at Whidbey General, says the same. And although many of the program’s referrals come from the family doctor, she said, We take referrals from just about any source. Sometimes we hear from neighbors or family members that somebody is coming out of hospital and needs help, or that the spouse is getting really tired. We just need to know that there is a need present.Moore confirmed that the program accepts what Medicare and Medicaid pay. For others, there is a sliding fee schedule, but families with private insurance may have an additional charge, and some families have no insurance. Those are the people Friends of Home Health Care help to pay for our services, she said. The program is available to people of any age, from newborns to centenarians, as long as they live on Whidbey Island. Home Health Care is also a good source of information on other island programs that offer help. If we can’t meet a need, we try to hand the family on to other resources, Moore said. But for many families, Home Health Care meets all their needs. Ask Joan Epley. She credits the care of the visiting nurses with her husband’s recovery.He’s doing better. Ev’s a fighter, Joan said. He can get around, although everything tires him out. But overall, he’s doing very well.The Epleys haven’t needed home health care visits since May. But Joan is still amazed that Home Health Care and the Friends of Home Health Care and Hospice found her when she needed them. I didn’t know beans from Shinola about it, she laughed. But we are thrilled and appreciative of every bit of help. —————–Home Health Care and Hospice has been providing in-home services to Whidbey Island since 1982 for people who have medical problems that essentially confine them to their homes. In 1999, Home Health Care and Hospice provided services to over 793 patients and families.The Friends of Home Health Care, established in 1984, provides assistance to Home Health Care and Hospice patients and families who need services but can’t afford it. Besides providing money to help pay for home health care and other out-of-pocket medical expenses, the Friends also pay for a year of bereavement and spiritual care for families who need it following a death. In 1999, the Friends provided assistance to 145 patients and families on Whidbey Island. This year they expect to serve over 180 families. For more information about Home Health Care, call 678-7605 or (360) 321-6659. For information about the Friends of Home Health Care, or to volunteer to serve on the board, which meets four times a year, call 675-0679. “

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