North Carolina State Representative Zack Hawkins Experiences a Day in the Life of a Durham Veteran Receiving Support at Home

NC state representative Zack Hawkins (left) meets home care client Mr. Mendenhall (seated) and his wife

State Representative Zack Hawkins, an active supporter of home health care, recently visited with a Durham family who rely on services to stay safe at home.

Representative Hawkins visited with a constituent, Mr. Aubrey Mendenhall, an armed service Veteran with a wonderful sense of humor. As a young US Sargent in Germany, he saw the prettiest lady working at the base general PX store…and spent the next thirty days asking her out. Margarete finally agreed and they’ve been together for more than 65 years.

Some five years ago, Mr. Mendenhall was diagnosed with Dementia – a condition characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. His dementia makes it difficult for him to manage without constant supervision and puts him at a high risk of falling. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) comes to help him bathe, toilet, and dress. “The aide’s goal is to help Mr. Mendenhall stay as independent as possible. Make sure he doesn’t fall or get an infection that can put him in the hospital,” said BAYADA Home Health Care Clinical Manager Megan Russell, RN.  

The Department of Veterans Affairs covers 11 hours of aide services per week. Outside those 11 hours, Margarete is his constant companion and support. She uses the 1 ½ – 2 hour breaks she receives each day to perform other necessary tasks such as running to the grocery store, to a doctor’s appointment, or to simply have an uninterrupted cup of tea. It is her only break from caregiving. At 90 years old, dealing with her own health issues, and after five years of serving as Mr. Mendenhall’s primary caregiver, Margarete finds herself exhausted!

With tears in her eyes, their only daughter, Kathy, commented that she is considering quitting her job as a nurse and move in with her parents so that she can better manage their care. While carrying for a loved one with a chronic illness can be profoundly meaningful, it can also be overwhelming as the physical, emotional, financial tolls compound on the family caregivers.  

“Having personally been touched with seeing my mother and aunt provide care to my grandmother, I understand how important it is to be able to take care of one’s family,” said Representative Hawkins. “And as a lawmaker, we need to support seniors and their families. To ensure they can live a full life at home. Care at home is an important option, less expensive, and where people want to be.” 

According to AARP’s online article, Caregiver Burnout, “over time, that physical and psychological wear and tear can lead to caregiver burnout – a condition of feeling exhausted, listless and unable to cope.”  Russell has reached out to the VA case manager to explore respite care which would allow for the family some much needed breaks. The Mendenhalls want to stay together, however, they need some additional support to effectively care for themselves while maintaining their responsibility to their loved one.

“In-home care programs provide one-on-one care by licensed nurses or certified nursing assistants under the care of a physician,” said BAYADA Area Director Lee Dobson.  “They allow families to stay together and be safe at home. It really gives the state more for less and is clearly part of the health care budget solution.”

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