In my 50 years as a nurse, I’ve worked in a lot of different settings. Most of my time was in critical care or patient education, but I’ve also worked in occupational health and doctor’s offices.

I didn’t even know long-term home health care existed until I retired. I went to the agency SeniorsPlus to learn about Medicare and also learned about all the other wonderful work they do, including keeping people safe in their homes when a nursing home is the alternative. One way they do this is by getting them a nurse to visit. A nurse like me.

Six years on, I still love my part-time job, which has become even more important in that time. Nursing home beds are now so hard to find that more and more people are teetering on the brink.

When I visit a client for the first time I tell them my job is to get to know them well enough to figure out how I can help.

Every situation is different. Managing medications can be the highest priority. Elderly folks and even young people with chronic illnesses can be on dozens of pills. Some in the morning. Some at night. Some on an empty stomach. Some only when needed.

This is incredibly difficult to manage when you don’t feel well, or your eyesight is poor, or your fingers are crippled with arthritis. One lady told me that, before I came along, when she didn’t feel well she just took one from every bottle.


Teaching may be my favorite part of the job. You can’t just go into someone’s home and lay down the law. They have to make the decision to stop drinking soda or to use their oxygen properly. You get there with education, maybe a little teasing. Patience, really. And I’ve got the time for that.

In the back of my mind I’m always monitoring the progression of chronic illnesses. A person with early signs of dementia, for example, can be safe at home. But you don’t want a disaster to be what indicates that things have gone too far.

Most people just really need the company. One man started to talk politics and when I said maybe we should stay off that subject, he looked crestfallen. “I don’t have anyone else to talk to,” he said. So we set up ground rules and have had some lively discussions since.

Lest it seem I am just a friendly visitor with some medical knowledge, let me tell you that medical knowledge goes a long way. I’ve been the first to pick up on heart rhythm changes, pneumonia, infections. I’ve given shots, drawn blood and clipped nails. I’ve clipped pets’ nails and found inexpensive medical care for the pets.

The bottom line and the most important thing to remember is: I’ve got time. I may visit weekly or I may visit monthly, but I stay an hour and I’ll be back soon. I still see some of my first clients; I’ve been visiting them for six years.

So it’s not a secret. We in long-term home health care are out there in the community doing valuable work. If you know someone who needs this kind of help, it starts with a doctor’s order. And if you are interested in doing this work, do what I did and ask SeniorsPlus about agencies hiring nurses in your area.

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