Visiting Angels

The staff of Visiting Angels, Vicki Boyett, staffing and client coordinator, from left, Catherine & Gary Ascher, directors, Michelle Marts, R.N. and Heather Barwick, staffing and client coordinator.

One of the most difficult decisions families have to make is choosing who takes care of their elderly loved ones when the time comes. For many families, nursing homes or assisted-living facilities are not the answer, so they turn to exploring options for in-home care. That’s where companies like Visiting Angels Inc. come in. Located in Brunswick, Visiting Angels is a franchise owned by Catherine and Gary Ascher. They opened the Brunswick office in March 2014.

“Gary and I are seniors ourselves, and we have over 30 years experience in the medical field,” said Catherine, adding that the couple’s own medical journey is what led them to open the Brunswick Visiting Angels office. The couple took care of Catherine’s mother at home, aided by caregivers, until they day she died, and subsequently, Catherine was Gary’s caregiver during his cancer journey and miraculous healing from throat cancer. “We both saw first hand the need for in-home care, and the need for qualified caregivers.”

The Aschers are committed to helping their fellow seniors find the best solutions possible for their needs as they age, and to give them the encouragement they can remain independent and stay in their own homes until they leave this Earth. They are also committed to helping veterans qualify for the Veterans Directed Home & Community Based Services offered by the Veterans Administration.

“Gary is a veteran himself, and the Sergeant-at-Arms for his local American Legion Post 166 on St. Simons Island, so caring for our veterans is very important to us,” said Catherine.

Visiting Angels recently won several top awards at the corporation’s annual convention in San Diego.

“We are one of the top award winning offices out of over 600 Visiting Angels offices,” said Catherine. “We were very proud to receive the Client Service Award, the Sustained Excellence Award and the Summit Award. Gary and I feel so very blessed that God has given us this opportunity to serve our fellow seniors and veterans.”

The company is staffed completely by Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Nursing Aids, who are supervised by a staff RN, who also supervises the care plans for every client. Office staff, Catherine said, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer clients’ questions or address needs.

The office serves several counties including Ware, Charlton, Camden, Brantley, Glynn, Pierce, Wayne, McIntosh, Long and Liberty.

Services range from the bare minimum to as comprehensive as a client needs, up to and including round-the-clock care.

Visiting Angels provides assistance with all of the activities of daily living, with which some seniors struggle. These include assistance with personal hygiene, eating, dressing, light housekeeping, basic household chores, errands, meal preparation, transportation to appointments and assistance with medication management.

Of course, paying for elder-care services is always a consideration. Catherine says there are several payment options, including veterans benefits that will pay through the Home and Community Based Services/Homemaker Home Health Aid Program, which is available to all veterans who meet the clinical need for service and otherwise quality. Aid and Attendance Pension, also through the VA, can help with the cost of in-home care. Long-term care insurance almost always pays for in-home care. The final option is private pay.

Catherine touts the advantages of in-home care over other options.

“Seniors get one-on-one care with home care (and) can age at home in place, and not have to move out of their familiar surroundings,” she said. “They get to choose their own caregiver, rather than being cared for by many different people.”

Another advantage is the reduction in trips to medical providers.

“Clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia diseases make almost 80 percent fewer trips to their doctor if they have in-home care,” she said. “Studies also show that Alzheimer’s patients who can remain in their familiar environment, have less anxiety, stress, and a greater sense of overall happiness.”

Visiting Angels can also supplement care received in an assisted-living facility, which is designed to provide support to people who require minimal assistance with activities of daily living. A nurse, she said, is not necessarily on site at all times.

Catherine also cites a survey that showed 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes, and another study found those who receive in-home care visited doctors 25 percent fewer times than those who don’t receive in-home care following hospitalization.

There are a number of other important considerations.

“Nurse-directed home care after hospitalization is associated with longer life and lower risk of re-hospitalization, according to a study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,” she said. “The study also found that because re-hospitalization was less likely when there was home care in place, total medical bills for heart patients were 35 percent lower.”

Also, many times when families are caring for an elderly loved one, they simply need a break from time to time. In addition to providing complete caregiver needs, the company can also provide respite care for family members.

And, if a loved one is in hospice, Ascher says Visiting Angels works with many community hospice organizations.

“We are called in to assist the families with extra support when there is a need for hospice care in the home,” she explained. “Hospice is not in the home 24/7, but we, as a home care agency, can be in the home 24/7, or on an as-needed basis to provide extra support for the family.”

Catherine Ascher says one message from clients rings loud and true.

“Every time I talk to a senior, they say, I don’t want to lose my home, my independence,” she said. “I don’t want to give up hope.”