After Othellua Stith lost his leg several months ago because of diabetes, he needed help. "I couldn't reach the shelves above the sink from my wheel chair," he explained. His failing eyesight added to his problems.
Help for Stith came every moring in the person of Queen Cook, an aide from the 20-year-old Homemaker Health Aide Service of Metropolitan Washington. To Stith, who is slowly learning to use an artificial limb, the aide was "a real nice lady" who cleaned up, did the laundry and fixed lunch forhim.
Cook is specially trained in the care and training of the handicapped. Besides doing the housework, she helped Stith practice walking each day. She said she taught him to go up and down stairs.
With HHAS for four years, Cook said she joined the staff because, "I wanted to help people - to be of some service. I love it" she said. People that she has served often call and request her services again, she said.
Cook worked three hours every morning five days a week with Stith and worked for other clients in the afternoon.
The homemaker aide service is one of two such organizations in the country accredited recently as fully meeting the standards set by the National Council of Homemaker-Home Health Aide Services, based in the New York City. Submission to the accreditation review is voluntary but is encouraged by the national council, an independent agency that has been issuing accrediations since 1972.
HHAS is the only organization in the Washington area that is accredited by the national council.
Although it is a nonprofit organization, 57.8 per cent of HHAS's annual budget comes from the fees of private clients. The cost of the service ranges from $470 to $6.28 per hour, based on the service and the user's ability to pay. Exceptions may be made for those unable to afford the full fee.
Toward this end, 18.7 per cent of the HHAS budget is provided by United Way funds. Another 21.5 per cent is federal money, channeled through local governmental agencies in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and paid to HHAS in th form of fees. Contributions and donations make up the balance of the funding.
HHAS has 127 trained and supervised homemaker aides on the staff,many of them part-time workers. They provide a range of personal care, do laundry and light house-keeping, shop for groceries, prepare regular and special diet meals, care for small children and instruct handicapped or disabled persons in activities of sdaily living.
Another 19 staff members run the two offices at 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW in the District and at 4710 Auth PI. SE in Camp Springs, MD. They also assign cases and train and supervise the homemaker aides.
Organized to provide temporary help during times of special need or crisis, most of the service is short term.
The exceptions to this, according to the acting excutive director, Miriam Felder, are the same of the elderly who continue to need the service for months or even years.
Felder said it allows many older people to avoid going to a nursing home.
"Older people do better in familar surroundings," said. "It is definitly more economical than hospitalization and is usually more emotionally satisfying for both the older person and his children," she continued.
The elderly now make up most of the HHAS cases. Of the 1,334 cases in the first nine months of this fiscal year, 1,065 were over 60 years old. The percentage is increasing each year, according to HHAS. When the service first began, there was a greater need for child care services.
Felder, who has been acting director of the service since August 1, said "In recent years with our growing elderly population there has been a trend toward greater utilization of in home care."
Not all services to the elderly are long term. There are times when an older person can become self-sufficient enough to discontinue the service altogether.
HHAS gives such an example from its files. An 88-year-old woman being discharged from the hospital in a back brace wanted to recuperate at her apartment instead of in a nursing home. HHAS provided an aide, five days a week at first and then three days a week as the woman's condition improved. When she seemed able to care for herself again and get around well, the service was discontinued.
Felder says her organization has to turn down some requests. "Even with over 120 on our staff, we are not ableto fully meet the need in the community," Felder said.