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Avera@Home helps meet the needs of home care, hospice patients

When Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic closed its surgical center on the third floor of its Ryan’s Road facility, it created space for home health and hospice services that were previously provided by Avera’s Sibley, Iowa program.

Avera@Home
Michelle Mills and Kari Horvath stand at the entrance to their office on the third floor of Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — It used to be that when a person was no longer able to care for themselves and their home, they would transition to a nursing home — a long-term care facility with staff to ensure they receive their medications, proper food and personal care.

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These days, more and more people are choosing to age in place — whether it be in a senior living community or in their own home. Not only are the elderly more comfortable staying within their surroundings, but it’s also more cost-effective if they can receive the care they need from licensed professionals who make home visits.

Avera Health saw a need locally for additional home health options, as well as in-home hospice care. When Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic closed its surgical center on the third floor of its Ryan’s Road facility, it created space for home health and hospice services that were previously provided by Avera’s Sibley, Iowa program.

Thirteen months ago, Avera@Home opened its office in the former surgery department of the Worthington clinic. The debut corresponded with the opening of Avera Home Medical, a shop just down the hall that supplies everything from canes to lift chairs and compression stockings to bathroom safety aids that help individuals age in place safely.

Kari Horvath serves as patient care coordinator and social worker for the local Avera@Home office, assisted by Michelle Miles, RN clinical coordinator. They, along with four registered nurses and two home health aides, have grown the program from about a dozen patients in October 2021 to 61 patients in the service area today.

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Avera Home Medical opened at the same time Avera@Home opened on the third floor of Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe

“We’ve seen just phenomenal growth as far as I’m concerned,” said Miles. “A big part of that is Kari’s role in getting out to nursing homes, meeting with patients and families and working with Dr. (Howard) Leibowitz.”

Avera@Home nurses provide care to patients in Nobles, Rock, Jackson, Cottonwood and a portion of Martin counties. Meanwhile, Avera’s Leibowitz serves as hospice medical director for 13 patients currently served through Avera’s in-home hospice program.

“Our hospice care is care for someone with a limited life expectancy — most often six months or less to live,” explained Horvath. “We care for them wherever they call home, whether it’s a nursing home, assisted living or at home.”

Horvath meets in a free consultation with patients and their families so they can make an educated decision about their end of life care. She explains that hospice patients have access to nurses, social workers, a chaplain and aides, while the primary caregiver can receive support for up to 13 months after a loved one’s death.

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“Patients are really tired of repeat hospital and doctor visits and they really want to focus on quality of life,” Horvath said.

“And comfort — that’s a big part of it,” added Miles.

Referrals come from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, medical facilities inside and outside the Avera network and across the region, and also from families.

With both their hospice care and home health programs, Horvath said they are often able to accommodate same-day admissions and get services in place.

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“We also provide the medical equipment they need, and that’s all covered by their Medicare benefit,” she said. In addition to Medicare, they accept Medicaid, most insurance, private pay and other payer sources.

Miles said Avera@Home provides a variety of home care services, from physical therapy — they contract with Prairie Rehab — to wound care, IVs, PICC line and G-tube care.

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“Nursing homes are full so we try to take care of patients that we can,” Miles said. “And hospitals are sending (patients) home earlier.

“We try to get out there as quickly as we can to make sure they understand those discharge instructions,” she added.

Horvath said their nurses and staff are dedicated to their work and want to help others.

“We try to meet the patients where they’re at and see what their needs are,” she said.

Miles said home care patients are initially signed up for 60 days of care, but if they have met their goals before that, they can be discharged.

“The clinic has embraced our services,” she added. “They see the benefit of home care and hospice. We can be their eyes and ears out in the community.”

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Miles, who worked as a home care nurse for 25 of her 35-year career, said it’s a rewarding profession.

“You walk into a person’s home and you get to see what their life is like and be a part of it,” Miles said. “To have someone who comes home from the hospital and they’re so afraid to walk or drive with their new knee or hip — and you see them walking and driving six weeks later.

“There’s such joy in that,” she added.

To inquire about services from Avera@Home, call (605) 322-4663 or visit averaathome.org online.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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