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Visiting Angels One of Increasing Options

August 3, 2008

By Mary Wade Burnside, The Times West Virginian, Fairmont

Aug. 3–FAIRMONT — When Peggy Dombkoski’s mother has to be admitted to the hospital, she hires Visiting Angels to spend time with her.

“When she has been in the hospital a couple of times, she was disoriented and she wanted to make sure someone was with her to get her all the little things she needs,” said Dombkoski, who lives in Clarksburg. “When you’re in the hospital, you can’t have (a hospital employee) sitting with her 24/7.”

The Clarksburg-based Visiting Angels can be hired for $12 an hour so that a nurse’s aid can stay with a person in the hospital or even at home.

“Some people have us around-the-clock seven days a week 24/7,” said Robert Coburn, owner of the Clarksburg branch of Visiting Angels, a national franchise.

Dombkoski’s mother actually contacted Visiting Angels first, but the service has come in handy for her daughter and her daughter’s husband, Dombkoski said.

“We’ve used them more than once in the hospital,” she said. “We were out of town one time when she was sick. That was good for us. Her caregiver went to the hospital until we could get home.”

Visiting Angels are just one of the increasing options that patients and their families have when a hospital stay is required.

When United Hospital Center moves to a new location off exit 124 of Interstate 79 in two years, not only will all the patient rooms be private, but sofa beds will be provided in each one so family members can spend the night.

The days of family members being ushered out of a patient’s room when visiting hours have ended are over.

“I think there was a day when we probably, on purpose, weren’t totally honest with the public,” UHC CEO Bruce Carter said of hospital administrators in general. “Between TV and the movies and our own communications, we’ve had the tendency to say it’s like a jail. It’s 9 and you all must leave now. We’re going to take care of your mom.”

But nurses cannot be with every patient, every moment of the day and especially night.

“There is a message when you tell somebody to leave, the logical impression is that you have enough staff and you can prevent any kind of fall,” Carter said. “That’s not true. That’s not a UHC issue. That’s a hospital issue.”

Add in the fact that even able-minded patients can become disoriented — whether because of drugs, being away from home or both — and the situation can present some difficulties.

“The environment is not the same as at home,” said Dombkoski, whose husband Frank is a doctor at UHC. “I don’t care what age you are; you get slightly disoriented in the hospital. It’s not your usual environment.”

Monongalia General Hospital in Morgantown just opened up a new patient tower with 72 private rooms, and after a remodel of the older portion of the facility is complete, all rooms will be private, said president and CEO David J. Robertson.

Each room will have a chair that folds into a single bed, Robertson said, and like at UHC, family members will be encouraged to spend the night.

“From the standpoint of patient safety, it is the safest means to have someone at the patient’s bedside,” Robertson said. “The hospital is not equipped to provide that for each patient, but a family member can.”

Because of insurance restrictions, patients admitted to the hospital now tend to be sicker than in the past and therefore most likely will be on several medications, which add to their confusion.

“They are much calmer when they have someone they recognize from their daily life that is there with them,” Robertson said. “So our design of the new rooms recognizes that fact and tries to provide the facilities that can better accommodate family members staying with the patient.”

E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at mwburnside@timeswv.com.

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