News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Experience and dedication make the difference in home care

Jill Stephenson enrolled in a Health Occupations Course at Meadow Brook Medical Care Facility in Bellaire while still in High School and eventually began working there as a nurse's aid. She went on to join the Health Department of Northwest Michigan as a home care worker, and began to specialize in assisting patients with baths, showers and personal care.

That was over thirty years ago and today she's still at it. Jill specializes in teaching patients and their caregivers safe bathing techniques and shows them how to modify the bathroom to suit the patient's needs. Jill says, "They need bath mats, hand-held showers, bath chairs and should have handrails. I'm there to assist them during their recovery from an illness or surgery. I also blow dry and comb hair, put lotion on, and help them get dressed. If the person is not diabetic, I can clip their nails and I always keep an eye out for signs of infection. If I notice any unusual tenderness, or hot spots, I report it immediately. Modesty isn't usually a problem because after spending time in the hospital, patients have lost whatever modesty they may have had to begin with, and I encourage patients to participate as much as possible with their baths."

A physician's referral is necessary before home care can begin. Jill usually works with patients for six to eight weeks, until they regain their strength. Her ultimate goal is to have the client bathe, or shower, on their own. She covers both Antrim and Charlevoix counties and during the course of one week, she makes between twenty five to thirty visits.

She also helps with the bathing needs of the Health Department's hospice patients, not only in their home, but in assisted living homes, foster care homes and nursing homes, as well. Jill says, "People love to talk and talk and I love to listen. Sometimes they tell me things they won't talk about with their own family members."

One thing Jill cannot do is take care of children in a hospice setting. "It just tears me up too much," she says.

Jill is just one example of the dedicated and experienced people who make up the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, and are responsible for it receiving the prestigious 2009 Home Care Elite Award. This award recognizes the Health Department for being one of the most successful home health care providers in the country. It is given to the top 25% of providers, based on quality outcomes, quality improvement, and financial performance measures reported to Medicare.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information regarding home health or hospice services, call (231) 547-6092 or toll-free at (800)-551-4140.