May 2017 | As front-line staff who have the most direct and intimate contact with patients, home health aides serve as veritable lifelines for vulnerable patients, particularly the frail-elderly, who struggle to age-in-place safely, and with dignity.
Eileen Crawford, a Home Health Aide at VNS Westchester for 25 years and winner of HCA’s 2017 Caring Award, is truly a lifeline.
While helping patients with fundamental “activities of daily living” —such as feeding, dressing, and bathing — Eileen always seems to intuit the little extra ways of supporting her patients’ emotional needs, such as shopping for favorite food items. More importantly, she is also often the first to spot health problems that have led to early interventions by physicians or ER doctors.
On several occasions Eileen has administered CPR, stabilizing patients until EMT workers arrived on the scene. On a recent visit, while discussing the plan of care with an elderly patient in Yonkers, Eileen discerned that the patient was having a mini-stroke and she immediately called 911. She has developed a sixth sense when it comes to observing and listening to what patients say (or don’t say) “between the lines.” By doing so, she has uncovered other issues that affect her patients’ health and well-being.
Not only is Eileen a compassionate helper and companion, she is also an essential safety net for those who slip through the cracks or might be at risk for depression, due to loneliness. She has made a point of working on holidays so patients would not be alone. She has also cultivated an extensive “community of caring” — neighbors, parishioners and co-workers – who donate furniture, supplies, clothing and food which Eileen houses in three storage units. Twice a year, she rents a 26-foot truck and fills it with donated goods that she distributes to people in impoverished areas or places hard hit by emergencies and natural disasters.
According to Eileen, “It’s often heart-wrenching, but I see the difference it makes in a person’s life. Years ago I was in need, and I benefited from the generosity of others. Seeing patients in all kinds of conditions helped me realize that there are many less fortunate than myself. I feel it is a true calling to give back.”