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Lutheran Home Care Services offers a helping hand

Organization marks 25 years of improving quality of life

November 11, 2003
J. C. North
Public Opinion

Betty Goodling and her husband, Vernon, smiled and winked at each other in the sort of familiar exchange that only the long-married exhibit.

They've been together for more than 52 years, living in their own home and taking care of one another.

Now, they admit, they need help. Now it's love and Lutheran Home Care Services that keeps them together.

Vernon had been his wife's caretaker since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1960, but after a stroke and open-heart surgery, he can no longer lift her in and out of her wheelchair, bathtub and bed. He has limited use of his right arm and walks with a cane.

"It hurts sometimes, just sitting here watching someone else take care of her," said her 77-year-old husband. "And sometimes, I feel like I've let her down. But it would be a lot worse if we weren't together."

Through Lutheran Home Care Services, an aide goes to the Goodling home in Washington Township twice a day and a registered nurse checks on Betty every two weeks.

Betty Goodling, 79, is one of 2,500 people who rely on home health care through Lutheran Home Care Services in Franklin, Fulton, Adams and York counties, Shippensburg area and the northern parts of Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties in Maryland.

The agency, a ministry of Lutheran Social Services of Southcentral Pennsylvania, is observing its 25th anniversary this year. Its office is at Luther Ridge, south of Scotland on Pa. 997.

Without the service, Goodling said she would be in a nursing home.

"I know that everyday she (aide) will be here," Goodling said. "It's nice to sit here at the table and see the door open and her walk in."

Just as important with the care given by the aide, Goodling said, is the time talking with her.

The Goodlings lived with their daughter, Deb Jones of Waynesboro, for a year while Vernon recovered and they found a home in Franklin County. The couple had lived all their married life in Millersburg, where Vernon had a fuel oil/coal company.

"They wanted their own place," Jones said, patting her mother on the back. "They wanted to be on their own."

Jones said she wasn't relinquishing her care until she was sure they would receive the care and attention her mother and father should have. The Goodlings moved into their one-story home in June.

"I'm confident with the care my mother gets," Jones said. "When someone was needed in the middle of the night, someone was here. When my mother needs to get up early or go to bed early, the aide is here."

Vernon was given physical therapy through Lutheran Home Care Services when he left the hospital.

The aide will get Betty out of bed in the morning, give her a bath and help dress her. She is usually there an hour.

She returns at night to put Betty to bed.

"We help keep people in their home longer," said Terry Shade, home care executive director. "We help them feel better in their home."

The state Department of Health provided home health care until 1978. Lutheran Home Care Services was asked if it would be interested.

The health department employed a few nurses to provide care in the homes, such as checking blood pressure, medication, bandages, respiration and breathing equipment. The local agency began with four nurses and an administrative director, Jeanne Wildasin. They provided nursing, home health care and physical therapy services in the Chambersburg area.

Through the years, Shade said, speech and occupational therapy, medical social services, hospice and private duty programs were added.

Today, the agency has 220 employees.

Jane Prince, home care registered nurse, visits the Goodlings every two weeks. On Saturday, she checked Betty's catheter and an ulcer sore. She talked with Betty on how she's been since her left leg was amputated two months ago.

Prince also checked Betty's blood pressure, which was slightly elevated.

"It's not alarming but I'll stay a little while to see if it goes down," Prince said.

Vernon leaned back in his overstuffed chair and smiled.

"They care about her," he said, of the home care workers. "They make her laugh. They make her feel better."

He remembered the day when his wife was diagnosed with MS. They were returning home from grocery shopping. He heard a thump behind him.

"I looked around and she was on the ground," he said. "She told me her foot didn't want to go where she wanted it to."

When they learned what it was, he told his wife they were going to do what they wanted to do.

"And we did, especially travel," he said. "I knew a time would come when she wouldn't be able to."

He likes to tease his wife about being older than he is.

"She's a good woman," he said, "even if she's older. She's been good to me"

Betty looked over her shoulder, winked and said, "Someone had to help you grow up after you left home."

He paused for a minute and tried to hold onto a smile.

"We wouldn't be able to tease each other like that if we weren't together like this," he said, his voice quivering.

Copyright © 2003, Public Opinion