Roy Stinson was tired of moving. The son of a carpenter turned sharecropper in the depression in the west, his father moved the family regularly to find work. “Dad wouldn’t stay in any place too long. If he couldn’t get work, we’d move around the country.” Roy, himself, bounced around. He left home when he was 15, traveled around the west, rode the rails for a while, and worked many different jobs as a carpenter or in farming. After his wife died in 2002, after 62 years of marriage, Roy stayed settled in. But he still had one more move to make, one he would later say was the best decision he’d ever made.
By the time Roy was 88, he was a frequent visitor to his local emergency room. He could not get a handle on health. “It seemed like I was there every other week, and I may have been.” Out of concern for the safety to others, he gave up driving. He was alone much of the time, although he’d tell you that wasn’t a problem for him.
But all of this was a problem for his daughter, Rebecca Guay. She supported him in moving back to Pittsburgh and later in enrolling in LIFE Pittsburgh’s program of all-inclusive care for the elderly. Because he resides in Allegheny County and is financially eligible, there is no cost.
The LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) programs provide all-inclusive medical and other services to nursing-facility-eligible participants 55 and older, with the goal of having them remain safe and independent in their homes. LIFE’s coordinated plan of care includes all medical, social, and daily living support. Primary care and community services are provided through the Day Health Centers and through an in-home program according to an individual’s needs. Services include comprehensive medical care, including outpatient and inpatient services, emergency care, podiatry, dentistry, hearing and eye care, diagnostic tests, lab tests and procedures, full prescription coverage, physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy, nutritional support, transportation to and from the day health centers and to medical appointments, medical supplies and durable medical equipment. There are no fees whatsoever for financially eligible participants.
“Dad had been floundering with all these doctors appointments and not being able to keep track of them or knowing how to get them,” says Rebecca. “He was eating out of cans or microwaved frozen foods – and not much else. He kept losing track of his meds. He wasn’t able to clean his home. Exactly all the things that LIFE Pittsburgh addresses for him.”
Roy, now 90, has been with LIFE Pittsburgh for two years and, in that time, has not required a single visit to the Emergency Room. He says, “I had been in such poor health. Sick a lot and very uncomfortable. Seemed like every time I turned around I was in the Emergency Room. Since I’ve been a member of LIFE Pittsburgh, I haven’t been. I get the medicines there and regular attention from the nurses and doctors. They come to my house every evening to ensure I’ve taken my medications. I never forget it in the morning but I do in the evening when I’m busy with puzzles or reading.”
Rebecca is thrilled with his care. “I no longer worry about him – and I used to all the time. We’re very close, we talk every day. LIFE Pittsburgh is very good about including me in my father’s care. They not only don’t mind my participation, they welcome it. They know that taking care of nursing-facility-eligible folks like Dad is a team effort.”
She adds, “He once said to me, ‘the Bible says when you’re older, the child shall lead.’ And he believes that’s the right thing, as do I. He jokingly calls me Bossy Pants because I stay on him about his care, but he knows it’s for his overall health and well being. You better believe I stay on it.
Roy adds, “Rebecca talks to the nurses and stays abreast of everything and shares information about me that they’d need to know. She knows more about my health than I do.”
Roy may forget his medications, but his mind is sharp as a tack. And he loves the attention he gets at the day health center. “Everybody’s nice,” he says. “A lot of nice people over there.”
A recreation specialist interrupts our interview to give him a hug. Roy says, “How’s the kids?”
“Getting big and sassy,” she replies.
Without missing a beat he quips, “Just look who they bond to.”
Looking around the center, it’s hard to tell whether Roy’s a favorite, because everyone gets so much love and attention. “I think that’s one of the things that’s so critical to my father’s health,” says Rebecca. Certainly getting checked up regularly and taking medications is essential. But so is the attention he receives. I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the bigger part of it.”
Roy says he really appreciates that whatever he needs, there’s someone to provide it for him. He visits the center twice a week from around 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. He loves the games, the medial attention, chapel, and says the food is “out of this world.”
Roy has two other children, a daughter in Oklahoma and a son in Oregon, and “a trainload of grandchildren.” While Roy really enjoys his independence, he also enjoys all the attention. “I can live with people or without them. But I’d rather have them around.”