Arizona Connected Care in action: How a little TLC made a big difference to a caregiver

ACC_TLC

Jeff Ruth stands with his parents,
Ernest, 89, and Marian, 82

It’s fair to say that Tucson resident Jeff Ruth has a lot on his plate.

Five years ago, he transitioned from the communications industry to what has been the most difficult, yet rewarding job of his life:  primary caregiver to his aging parents.

His father Ernest is 89.  His mother Marian is 82.  Jeff cares for them 24/7.  It’s a role that he is absolutely committed to despite its difficulties.

“There is no way to repay them for all they have done for me in my life.  I will take care of them until the very end,” he said.

He spends every day and night with them, making sure they’re fed, clean, loved, and happy.  Within the past few years, both have suffered serious health problems, some which have required time at Tucson Medical Center.

“About four years ago, my mom fell on the tile floor in the kitchen and hit her head so hard, it resulted in a traumatic brain injury.  She had bleeding on the brain, which required surgery.  Dad has COPD and asthma.  At times he struggles to breathe and has been in and out of the hospital for that.  When they’re in the hospital they always receive great care.  But when we would get home and I’d discover some issues or have questions that I didn’t think about in the hospital, I had no one to call,” he said.

Jeff equates the experience to feeling like he was on an island.  “I truly felt like I was alone in caring for them,” he said.

This year, that all changed.

Ernest was hospitalized twice in just the past few months.  Both times, when they returned home, Jeff received a phone call.  Amber Jones, RN, was on the other end.  “I was blown away,” he said.  “I couldn’t believe it.  Somebody actually cared.”

Arizona Connected Care's Office of Care Coordination: Amber Jones, BSN, RN – Transition Nurse;  Karen Popp BSN, RN- Care Advocate/ Transition Nurse;  Tina Wren, MA- Care Coordinator

Arizona Connected Care’s Office of Care Coordination:
Amber Jones, BSN, RN – Transition Nurse;
Karen Popp BSN, RN- Care Advocate/ Transition Nurse;
Tina Wren, MA- Care Coordinator

Jones is a Transition Nurse for Arizona Connected Care (AzCC), an LLC owned by primary care physicians, specialists and TMC that is Southern Arizona’s first Accountable Care Organization, or ACO.  It’s a network of physicians, hospitals and other health care providers who share the responsibility of caring for patients in a coordinated manner.

How are mom and dad feeling?  Have any issues popped up since they’ve been home?  Did you remember to get their medications?  Any questions about those?  Are you clear on how they should be taken with other medications?  How are they working?  Are the compression stockings helping?

These were all things Jones wanted to know about.

The Ruths qualified for the Transition Intervention Program, specialized post-hospital care, because their primary care physician, Dr. Jeff Selwyn at New Pueblo Medicine, is one of the approximately 200 doctors currently participating in the ACO.

Jeff Ruth gets emotional just trying to express how touched he was and how phenomenal the program is.

“Amber’s time, concern, and dedication to her job have changed my whole view of post-hospital care,” he said.  “I no longer feel like I’m in this fight by myself.  She empathized with things that I deal with every single day of my life while caring for my parents.  In additional to all of the responsibilities I’m trying to fulfill, I’m also dealing with the emotional toll of the situation.  Trying to navigate through the health care system while trying to be an advocate for my parents was overwhelming.  I finally feel like I have someone in my corner to make sure they receive the best care.”

Jeff knows that whatever issue comes up – whatever question he has – Amber is just a phone call away.  “It’s not like she just called once to check in.  She calls frequently and I so appreciate it.  It’s really comforting to know that I can call her and say ‘I need a little bit of help here,’ and she’ll be there.  I’ve never had that before.”

Please click here to read the story about Mary McGillivray, a Tucson woman who avoided hospital readmission thanks to the transitional care program.

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