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Staying home, with a little help

Mary Jo Hayward, 84, of Rochester got into a little bit of a bind: Congestive heart failure caused her to have to go into the hospital.

"I had had two episodes. They wouldn't let me go unless I had help, or I went to a nursing home," Hayward said.

Lots of people face that unsettling choice when they're too sick, frail, confused or in pain to live without assistance, but they want to continue living on their own. These days, there are services available for people who want to stay at home.

Whether for a couple of hours a week to handle basic needs or temporary 24-hour nursing care, for example, home care can mean the difference between remaining at home and long-term-care placement.

Neil Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota HomeCare Association, said 95 percent of people surveyed want to stay in their own home if they can.

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Hayward chose to receive hospice services, but she wanted to do so at Homestead of

Rochester, where she has lived since.

To make that happen, she moved to assisted living from independent living and signed up for care from Visiting Angels senior home care services of Rochester, one of  hundreds of home care services offered statewide , such as Hiawatha Home Care in Red Wing, Heartland Home Health in Rochester, Winona Health Home Care and Good Samaritan Home Care in Preston.

"At that time I needed 24-hour care," Hayward said. "I was pretty sick when I got out of the hospital."

Visiting Angels staff helped her with "most everything" when she first got back to Homestead.

"They'd get my meals brought up to me, they'd help me dress and do everything. They were right on the ball," Hayward said. Over time, she got to know two or three of the staff quite well.

The personal relationships created between care providers and recipients can be a particularly poignant part of home care.

"It's very much a relationship type of business. People get to know their home-health aid or their nurse on a personal basis," Johnson said

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Those who helped, Hayward said, "were wonderful."

At first, her son said, "she was in tough shape." But the home-care staff helped her stay in her own place, while allowing her son to continue working.

"I said, 'Let me try it this way,'" she said, "and I showed everybody."

This summer she no longer needed home care, but knew it was available again if needed.

"I was finding I was strong enough to be on my own with the help of the Homestead," she said.

Things are being done at home now that, 20 years ago, would have been done in the hospital.

"The Visiting Angels were great because they helped … but I think the biggest part was the social thing," Hayward's son said.

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