When Jeff and Susan Hatfield moved to Durango, their first priority was to find medical care for their baby son, Zane. Zane was born with a chromosomal disorder that left him with disabilities that include the inability to speak or walk on his own. Mercy Medical Care Center didnt provide the home care they needed, so the couple began searching for an alternative.
The local home-health-care agency PASCO/SW finally provided an answer with a program that allowed Susan to stay home, care for Zane and be reimbursed for it. The find was a relief for the family.
Without the services PASCO offers, we would have very seriously considered moving to a larger metro area where there are more services, Jeff Hatfield said. Its allowing us to be in an area we really want to live in.
As legislators question the functionality and effectiveness of entitlement programs, and Medicare and Medicaid continue to be hit by real and proposed cuts to funding, the story of PASCO/SW stands out as an example of where the health-care system is working and working well.
Owner Yvette Tanner started PASCO/SW in 1999, as a sub-unit of a home-health-care agency in Denver. Her son, Tyler, has a disability and requires constant care, but as Tanner searched for a local-care option, she realized there wasnt one. So she started her own.
PASCO/SW provides different tiers of home-care services and became independent in 2006. In its 12 years, the agency has grown from one full-time employee and one half-time employee to 180 and has expanded from serving patients in two counties to eight in Southwest Colorado.
It is a certified agency under Medicare, Medicaid and the Medicaid Home and Community Based Service Program and more than 80 percent of its patients are served by those programs, Tanner said.
From a statewide perspective, Tanners agency is well-known for the work it does, said Ellen Caruso, the former executive director of the Home Care Association of Colorado.
And on the business side of things, Tanner has blown the socks off the region, said Joe Keck, director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center.
Tanner said her success boils down to the fact that her employees provide the most thorough, hands-on care possible up to seven days a week. Many people also need the opportunity PASCO/SW allows for neighbors and family members with proper training to become employees and get compensation for caring for their loved ones, she said. Most states allow such employment arrangements, but many agencies avoid them because it takes more work, Tanner said. She does it because it would be hypocritical not to when she needs that structure for her son, Tanner said.
As the baby boomer population enters retirement age, effective home-health-care agencies are becoming increasingly necessary, Caruso said.
The year 2011 is the 65th year for the first baby boomers, and we expect home care and senior care to get huge in the next years because of that one statistic, she said. Baby boomers started a lot of fads, and were expecting opinionated decisions by baby boomers who say I want to stay home.
And as elderly care expands, home health care also can be a way to put less financial strain on the system, Caruso said.
She cited a statistic that caring for the average home-health patient costs about one-third the amount it would cost for the person to stay in a nursing home. That statistic doesnt apply to patients in need of total care, though, she said.
Costs aside, PASCO/SW has allowed Barbara Lee to lead a relatively normal and busy life, despite being unable to care for herself. Multiple sclerosis has bound Lee to a wheelchair, but still she visits gardens, takes walks and makes trips to the mountains because PASCO/SW allowed her daughter, Michelle Liemandt, to move in and get paid to care for her.
Liemandt said she didnt know what the alternative would be were she not caring for her mother.
I dont even want to think about it, she said. I dont know what other choice we would make at this point.