Mahalo to St Francis Home Health Services Kauai

St Francis Home Health Kauai closed June 30 after over 30 years of service to the island of Kauai. As a Home Health Nurse for nearly 20 years on Kauai 11 of these last with St Francis I wish to share my gratitude and appreciation for the leaders and colleagues who worked together to provide care for thousands of families and individuals across Kauai. Birth, illness, injury, surgery and death are the great equalizers of Kauai’s diverse financial and ethnic communities touching everyone and their ohana. It takes an island to care for one another old and young. It has been a privilege over all these years for St Francis Home Health to serve, assist and teach in patient’s homes knowing that we have contributed to the health and well being of Kauai.

Home Health Care is financed by Medicare and most insurance plans. Patients who are homebound with orders from our island doctors can receive visits for individualized care, rehabilitation and recovery from nurses, physical therapists, cccupational therapists, certified nurse aides and social workers. Most families only discover this service when facing a life-altering disease, injury or surgery. Professionals specialized in care and teaching directly in the home setting generally go unrecognized yet play an essential role in reducing medication errors, healing wounds, decreasing falls, preventing hospitalization and keeping people in their homes as long as possible. It is time to recognize and honor the dedicated care team who has served Kauai through St Francis Home Health over all these years.

Thanks and deepest appreciation for the leadership of our most recent director Maile Ballesteros, RN with 15 years in home health and the strong foundation built by previous director Dardenelle Kaauwai, RN who retired in 2009 after over 20 years of service to Kauai. These strong, dedicated women guided St Francis Home Health through the demanding changes of regulation, oversight and transition to computer record systems while not losing the focus on the families we served throughout all of Kauai. With professionalism and clarity they set the highest standards for quality of care in the home. Together, they created an environment that honored each professional’s unique contribution to our care team that worked together every day. Their leadership provided the tools, support and expertise to provide the best care possible for every home we entered.

Thanks and appreciation go out to Corlis Moritsugu, administrative secretary for 18 years and Christie Reis, Medical Secretary for nine years. You kept our computers, documentation and office running smoothly while keeping us on task with deadlines. You provided the voice and face of St Francis for anyone who called or stopped in the office. You helped us to always receive the highest marks from Medicare surveyors and inspectors from other regulatory agencies who can show up unannounced at any time.

Appreciation is also in order for our dedicated physical therapists: Binil Mathews (now with the VA in California), Divina Rich, Derick Caoagas (now with the Kauai Fire Department), Paulette Lum (enjoying retirement once again) and most recently Mary Ann Holden (who sailed from Kauai finding her new home on Whidbey Island in Washington), Deborah Burnham and Lisa Friedman. Over the years you assisted individuals and families throughout Kauai adjusting to the effects of injury, stroke, weakness and surgery to reach independence and safety through rehabilitation programs and exercises specific to their home environment. The amazing human body adapts with education and training to its maximum state of balance, movement and strength given the tools and encouragement from physical therapists such as you.

Thank you to our creative occupational therapists over the years. Arlene Baker and her daughter Mindy Murray now serve through their own company Kauai In Home Therapy, Katie Vercelli (now with Wilcox Health) and most recently Renee Picotti. Occupational Therapists provided home based tools, exercises and programs to maximize “Activities of Daily Living” such as bathing, dressing, upper extremity and hand function plus the support needed for returning to work or community life. They also designed specific interventions to assist with cognitive perception, swallowing, energy conservation and safety.

A special note of appreciation goes out to Petra Oune, certified nurse aide who retired in 2012 after 17 years of service to Kauai. Driving sometimes daily from one end of Kauai to the other she provided baths, walks, exercises, encouragement and companionship to thousands of elders and their families over the years. Her shoes and heart were just too big to fill as her position remained open. We have missed her essential part of our care team and honor her for the dedicated service, strength and humor that carried us through the most challenging circumstances.

Another team member of St Francis over the years who’s position was never filled must also be acknowledged. Charlotte Carvalho, MSW assisted St Francis Home Health with medical social work referrals to community agencies for those in need of more services or placement in long term care residences. Family and interagency conferences helped with communication to meet the many challenges of home based care. Her sensitive support for families facing difficult, life changing circumstances helped all of us to provide our best care.

Finally, I thank my dedicated registered nurse colleagues. Becky Mumley retired in 2013 after 30 years serving the East and North Shores of Kauai. Cindy Phillips served Lihue and South side families while assisting the office leadership team these past 8 years. Leslie Aana covered the West side district for the last five years. Ed Stumpf pitched in wherever the need was the greatest anywhere across the island. Their support, teamwork and knowledge provided quality nursing care throughout Kauai for each person’s unique home needs. From complex wound care, medication teaching and ostomy management to family support and teaching we provided the tools, knowledge and conditions for each patient’s journey toward healing. We deeply appreciate each and every family who entrusted St Francis Home Health for your care and allowed us into your home. You have taught us and touched our hearts on your unique path. We have seen first hand the deep, intimate strength of Kauai’s families caring for each other in times of need and the isolation of those alone brightened from community services.

For the other caregivers throughout the history of St Francis Home Health we acknowledge and appreciate your dedication and service to Kauai. Your commitment to excellence in care set the foundation over 30 years ago upon which we who followed could continue to strengthen and grow. If there are specific people that I left out you would like to acknowledge or to share a specific St Francis Home Health story please submit for a scrapbook or archive to be shared at a future reunion c/o P O Box 3956, Lihue, HI 96766

Even though the doors of St Francis Home Health may be closed know that the hearts of our caregivers will be open for ongoing care and service for the health of our island home. You will likely see us in other roles throughout Kauai’s health care systems providing expert care, advocating for patients and families, teaching health management and encouraging healthy choices. With the changes in social and government support for healthcare Kauai has to set a higher priority on how as an island we care for our kapuna and families in their own homes, supported by their communities with caregivers well compensated.

My vision for our Garden Island is to be a leader and model of vibrant health through nutritious island grown foods, communities connected and supported in care for all ages, integration of natural healing modalities and quality medical services accessible to all. It does take an island to truly care for each other. May all of us on Kauai work together toward this vision.

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Ken Jopling, RN, BSN a nurse for nearly 40 years has seen the great need on Kauai over the last 20 years for patient advocacy throughout our health care system, programs to keep our Kapuna thriving in their community, support for family caregivers of all ages and an increase in the values we place on care giving throughout our culture.   

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