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Enriching Elder's lives at home, where the heart is


Seven Hills Foundation’s Adult Family Care
logoIn September 2016 the Santos family, of New Bedford, MA, made a life-changing decision that today is proving very wise. Family matriarch Gilda Santos, who recently turned 75, and her daughter Lucy Marques and her husband, Ventura, have lived together for years. Lucy has long cared for her mom, who has memory loss and diabetes, and suffers from chronic leg pain caused by back problems.
These limitations require that she receive constant care. But Lucy says that until September, when the family joined the Seven Hills Adult Family Care (AFC) program, “The responsibilities for caring for Mom were becoming overwhelming.”
“Seven Hills provides a much-needed support net for us,” Lucy said. “This has lifted an enormous burden from my shoulders and given me more time to live my own life. They help us find dependable community resources and provide excellent nursing and guidance. Right now, they’re helping us research day program options where Portuguese is spoken, since Mom speaks little English. And they’re always available to bounce ideas off and simply lend a receptive ear.”
Case manager Billi-Jean White said, “Our Seven Hills team is working to find community enrichment for Gilda, so she can be more stimulated during the day, and discover a sense of community outside her home. This will expand her social circle, which usually improves one’s prognosis.”
Lucy worksas an intake worker at another social services agency. Her professional knowledge made the Santos’ choice of the Seven Hills AFC program an easy one. “I’m familiar with all the programs available locally,” she said, “so I knew right away that the Seven Hills offering was our best choice. We couldn’t be more pleased.”
The passing of Gilda’s husband two years ago has taken a toll on this entire close-knit family. Here too, the AFC arrangement has helped greatly. The AFC stipend Lucy receives as her mom’s caregiver enables Lucy to spend more time at home, providing Mom extra comfort and closeness. AFC also provides respite care, which offers Lucy an occasional break from her caregiver responsibilities.
Gilda’s physical limitations and forgetfulness require that her health be closely monitored. Every month, her Seven Hills nurse and case worker come for a visit. Recently Billi-Jean and Michelle Call, RN, paid a visit, checking on Gilda’s symptoms, monitoring her medications, doctors’ appointments, and other details of care, and answering Lucy’s questions. “Home visits enable the team to make better decisions on Gilda’s self-care ability and appropriate settings for community enrichment,” said Billi-Jean.
For the Santos family, the bottom line is that Gilda is doing much better now. “I’m so grateful that we are in the AFC program,” Gilda said. “I can continue living at home with Lucy and Ventura, and spend time with their children, and my Seven Hills nurses and case workers are almost like family. And the program gives Lucy the support she needs to care for me and have more time for her own interests.”
Overseeing more than 500 caregiver arrangements, Seven Hills is the premier coordinator of Adult Family Care in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “Seven Hills provides a variety of vital services to both the adults we support and their caregivers,” said Leslie Courtney, vice president of Seven Hills Family Services. “This gives the caregiver a concrete way to help a loved one in need while receiving comprehensive supports,” Seven Hills provides care coordination, nursing support, ongoing training, respite care, a monthly stipend, and other assistance to ease the responsibilities of care.
“By residing in the family setting, the individual can develop a greater sense of belonging, companionship, independence, dignity, and community integration – in short, the most normal life possible, depending on his or her disability,” Leslie said. “The family setting is the key to improved quality of life, and for elders in need, this can be especially meaningful.”
My Peaches and Cream
 Emilia Santos (no relation to Gilda) was born and raised in Portugal. To see her today, you’d be surprised to learn that she’s 91. She resides with her son, Carlos, his wife, Cheryl, and Mia, the family’s beloved Chihuahua, in East Providence, RI. Cheryl is Emilia’s main caregiver, “my peaches and cream!” Emilia exclaimed. Still, this alert, youthful-looking nonagenarian has medical challenges that make her eligible for Seven Hills’ AFC program, which in Rhode Island is called RIte @ Home.
Emilia has Type II Diabetes, chronic asthma, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Despite these challenges, she lived independently until 2013, when she moved in with Cheryl and Carlos following a bad fall that fractured her hip. Following hip surgery, the family placed Emilia in a local nursing home to rehabilitate. But the care there was poor, resulting in a bad infection to her surgery incision. “It’s comforting for all of us to have Emilia living at home with us, where she’s safe and cherished,” Cheryl said.
“Becoming a RIte @ Home household has given us all a new lease on life,” she added. “Seven Hills services are so caring, and Lindsey and our other Seven Hills folks are so good to Emilia.” Lindsey Blanchette is Emilia’s RIte @ Home nurse. During her monthly  visit with Emilia and Cheryl,  Lindsey reviewed Emilia’s medication list and doctors’ appointments, among other check-ins, and chatted amiably with Emilia and Cheryl, answering their questions and offering guidance on Emilia’s care.
Soon after welcoming the family to the RIte @ Home program, Lindsey found a local pharmacy that packages medications in a way that all but eliminates any possibility of medication errors. “This improvement helps a lot due to Emilia’s memory challenges,” Cheryl said. “It eases my daily task of managing her medications.”
Cheryl works part-time from home, so she’s normally with Emilia 24-7. This arrangement has obvious advantages, “but occasionally I welcome a break,” Cheryl said. Carlos and his daughter, Leah, serve as respite relief, for which they are paid through RIte @ Home. As caregiver, Cheryl receives a monthly stipend.
It’s plain to see how loving the relationship between Emilia and her daughter-in-law Cheryl is—and how beneficial the decision to become a RIte @ Home household has become for the entire family.
To learn more, please visit www.sevenhills.org/programs/adult-family-care-ma in Massachusetts, or www.sevenhills.org/programs/adult-family-care-ri in Rhode Island.