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Visiting Angels assist northern Arizona’s homebound
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Visiting Angels assist northern Arizona’s homebound

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After two years in Flagstaff, the Visiting Angels home care service has settled in and made its mark, now planning to increase its presence in the region’s rural areas.

Unlike Flagstaff’s home health care providers, Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services, a faith-based organization, does not provide medical care, focusing instead on the other needs of homebound individuals and their families in communities throughout the region.

Beyond Flagstaff, Visiting Angels currently serves areas including Williams, Payson, Holbrook, Winslow, Show Low, Sedona, the Verde Valley and Prescott with 52 total caregivers — 11 in Flagstaff — who help clients with everyday tasks like errands, transportation, personal care, housekeeping, laundry and cooking.

“I think companionship and conversation are always going to be the heart of what we do because most of our clients are lonely and they need that interaction,” said Care Director Katrina Poole.

Within the next five years, the organization plans to create new satellite offices in Show Low, Payson and the Verde Valley to meet the needs of rural clients.

According to a 2014 report on national rural and urban home health care by the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, rural home care patients are more likely to be in a fragile or serious condition than their urban counterparts. Of the entire home health patient population, most were able to communicate but had troubles completing the “instrumental activities of daily living.” Nearly 82% of rural patients received help in completing these activities, whether from paid providers or family members.

Poole said Visiting Angels provides rural home care by hiring local caregivers who report to the central office in Flagstaff only about once a month for an “Angel Call” team meeting and additional training. As a nonmedical organization, caregivers cannot be nurses but may be nursing assistants. Most are just compassionate people with experience in home care who leaders of the group like Poole would feel comfortable having in their own parents’ home.

While assisting their clients, these caregivers often work alongside health care providers, giving reminders to take medication or transporting clients to the doctor or pharmacy. With other providers addressing the primary medical needs, Visiting Angels aims to complete the tasks typically done by family members.

“A lot of what we do is respite for families. They need that time to get away,” Poole said. “With family caregivers that are full time, their health is typically in as much jeopardy as the client is because it is a lot of stress and a lot of constant responsibility.”

Though Visiting Angels will serve anyone over the age of 18, it mainly works with the geriatric population and veterans, who can often be serviced for free through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, the organization has about 70 clients throughout the region, 30 of which are veterans. It has also seen a recent increase in clients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Care Manager Debra Balderas said the faith-based mission of Visiting Angels, to help homebound individuals maintain their independence and dignity, adds a unique human value to clients and caregivers alike.

As a result, last month, Visiting Angels of Northern Arizona, including both the Flagstaff and Prescott offices, received the top award for home care from Home Care Pulse, an independent satisfaction research firm that evaluates participating home care businesses throughout the country.

Over a 90-day period, clients routinely rate factors like the ability of and compatibility with their caregiver, while caregivers determine how well trained they feel, the support they receive from their office as well as their compensation. If scores remain in the top percentage for the region, the office is awarded Provider of Choice for their client scores and Employer of Choice for caregiver scores. Those who receive both awards and rank in the top percentile for reviews for at least a year are awarded the Leader in Excellence Award.

Nationally 861 offices of about 1,700 evaluated earned awards and only the top 15% earned the Leader in Excellence award. Of the 60 Arizona providers evaluated only nine earned this top award, a Home Care Pule representative said in an email. Visiting Angels was the only northern Arizona provider to be recognized, though ABRiO Care in Flagstaff did earn the Provider of Choice award.

“To know that we can send our caregivers out to help people manage what they have to be able to stay at home, it’s wonderful,” said Genna Caviness, who manages the schedules for Visiting Angels’ caregivers. “It’s a great feeling. We get to go home every day knowing that we did something good.”

Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at kolson@azdailysun.com or by phone at (928) 556-2253. 

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