When Hazel Schoen of Gaithersburg, then mother of an active 2 1/2-year-old and expecting her second, broke her kneecap, she began a frantic search for temporary household help.The cast on her leg, combined with her pregnancy, made keeping up with her toddler difficult and scrubbing her floors impossible.
After several false leads, she finally located Homemaker Health Aide Service (HHAS), a 20-year-old organization that provides temporary household, babysitting and health aide service in metropolitan Washington. She says the sides were "extremely helpful."
Debra Phleeger is one of the newer homemaker aides, who just completed her training in April. She has an interest in children and looked after Schoen's little girl during her visits three days a week. She also did light housekeeping and laundry and prepared lunch. Phleeger's experience and training have also included work with mentally handicapped children.
Her work with the Schoen's ended after the removal of Mrs. Schoen's leg cast and the birth of the baby.
HHAS is one of two homemaker aide organizations in the country accredited recently as fully meeting the standards set by the National Council of Homemaker-Home Health Aide Services, based in New York City. Submission to the accreditation review is voluntary but encouraged by the council, an independent agency that has been issuing accreditations since 1972.
HHAS is the only organization in the Washington area that is accredited by the national council.
Although it is a nonprofit organization, .8 per cent of HHAS's annual budget comes from fees of private clients such as Schoen. The cost of the service ranges from $4.70 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.
United Way funds cover 18.7 percent of the HHAS budget and another 21.5 per cent is federal money, channeled through local government agencies in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia and paid to HHAS in the form of fees. Contributions and donations make up the balance of the funding.
HHAS has 127 trained and supervised homemaker aides on their staff, many of them part-time. According to HHAS, they provide a range of personal care, do laundry and light housekeeping, shop for groceries, prepare regular and special diet meals, care for small children and instruct handicapped or disabled persons in activities of daily living.
Another 19 staff members run the two offices at 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW in the District and at 4710 Auth Pl. SE in Camp Springs, Md. They also assign the cases and train and supervise the homemaker aides.
The elderly now make up most of the HHAS cases. Of the 1,334 cases in the first nine months of the fiscal year, 1,065 were over 60 years old and the percentage of elderly cases is increasing each year. This is a change from the early day of the service, when there was a greater need for child care serivces, according to HHAS.
Acting executive director of HHAS Miriam Felder said the service allows many older people to avoid going to a nursing home.
"Older people do better in familiar surroundings," she said. "It is definitely more economical than hospitalization and is usually more emotionally satisfying for both the older person and his children," Felder continued.
There are times when an older person can be self-sufficient enough to discontinue the service altogether, according to HHAS.
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 in her apartment instead of a nursing home. The Homemaker Health Aide Service provided an aide, five days a weeks at first and then three days a week as she 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 able to fully meet the need of the community," Felder said.