Virginia remembers January 6, 1971 clearly - it was the first of many surgeries for her rheumatoid arthritis. The debilitating disease began after the birth of her third daughter.
For years Virginia continued to cook, drive, and volunteer. But the rheumatoid arthritis progressed steadily and over the years she had surgery on several joints and was less able to get around. Climbing up the stairs to her Providence home became more and more difficult and finally she decided to move permanently to the Narragansett home where she and her husband has spent many summers with their daughters.
Her move to Narragansett meant that her two daughters in Warwick weren't going to be able to take care of her daily needs.
"They both work full-time so they can't drive here every day," says Virginia.
Her third daughter lives in St. Louis, Missouri and calls at least once a day.
A feisty and proud lady, Virginia wasn't about to give up her independence.
"I decided I wanted to stay at home as long as I can."
While recovering at home from her last surgery, she decided to follow up on a visiting nurse's suggestion that she call HealthTouch to see about getting help from their certified nursing assistants (CNAs). HealthTouch is the non-profit private duty home care partner of VNA of Care New England.
Virginia started out with one HealthTouch CNA to help her get ready for the day in the morning. Now she has a CNA every morning and another CNA every evening, seven days a week. She also has a Lifeline personal emergency response system through HealthTouch which can alert family and rescue staff if necessary.
Sue Safford is the HealthTouch CNA who cares for Virginia every morning, as she has for nine years. She helps Virginia get showered, dressed and have breakfast.
"Sometimes we watch television and chat. Other times, I'll take her to doctors' appointments, or we'll go out shopping or to lunch, or just take a drive to see the sights."
Emily takes care of her weekday evenings, getting her dinner, taking care of the dishes, and helping Virginia to bed, if she feels ready to sleep.
"Having Sue, Emily, Nancy and Joanne care for Mom gives us such peace of mind. Because the same CNAs care for her each day, they know what to expect and can tell if something is wrong with her. There have been a couple of times that Sue's arrived and noticed that she was really sick. Sue's called to let me know that she was getting the ambulance to take Mom to the hospital. I don't know what would've happened without her." says daughter Kathy.
Sue agrees. "I've been taking care of her for nine years so I know her very well. We're like family. I know what she likes to eat, what she likes to do. She bosses me around."
"I'm also teaching her to bake pepper cookies," Virginia interjects.
In fact, Virginia teaches all of the CNAs how to cook and bake some of her Italian specialties. She's also teaching her granddaughters who visit frequently and continues to do a little cooking herself.
"Living in her own home is the best thing for her. It's much better for her mental health to be at home," says daughter Lorianne.
Says Virginia, "I call them 'my angels.' I wouldn't be able to live at home without their help."
All CNAs who work for HealthTouch are certified, licensed, bonded, and insured, and have passed criminal background checks. They help clients with personal care, home-making and errands. HealthTouch is licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Health and is accredited by the Joint Commission. To learn more, call HealthTouch at 401-788-2400.