~ The following was published in the Floyd Press on May 1, 2008.
Rosemary Wyman's business, New Day, has been providing home health care and support to individuals and their families since 2005. The business is a natural extension of a life long interest of Wyman's.
"Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say a nurse," Wyman, a tomboy who grew up in New York, said. "The only reason I played with dolls was to use them as patients," she added.
Wyman and her family moved to Floyd from Charlotte, North Carolina in 1999. She and her husband, Walter Charnley, have been parents to eight in a blended family that Wyman refers to as, "his, mine, and ours."
Certified in hospice and as a palliative nurse assistant, Wyman has extensive experience with end of life care and has been educating others about this life passage. She's worked for Good Samaritan Hospice in Roanoke and has done fill-in work at The Beulah Hospice House in Dublin. Although she's provided care to a number of Alzheimer patients - including her own father - and has a special interest in the needs of the aging population, not all her clients are elderly. Last year Wyman provided care for two young women with terminal illnesses.
Tom Vangunten, who lost his wife, Laura, to cancer last fall thinks the contribution Wyman makes is "invaluable." Like Wyman, he believes people would benefit from more education and preparation for end of life.
"We don't prepare for death. I can't believe I got to be forty-nine and didn't know a thing about this. I think grief and loss should be taught in school along with Driver's Ed and how to balance your check book," he said.
Vangunten, who is now a single parent to his and his wife's two young sons, explains how the support Wyman offered was for the whole family. "For people dealing with terminal illness, it affects everyone in your family. It's helpful if you have someone who can guide you through it. What Rosemary did was invaluable. She coordinated with doctors and other care givers, and provided the personal. What ever needed to be done - if someone needed a hug - she stepped-up," he said.
Many families dealing with the terminal illness of a loved one need more support than the one or two hours a day a hospice worker provides. New Day can offer what Wyman refers to as "hospice support." While she gives direct care to clients - which might include bathing, wound dressing, and assisting with pain management - much of Wyman's work is more subtle than that. Her presence often has a calming effect because she accepts people from where they are and can approach each new situation without family history, she says. "Sometimes things not being addressed can be addressed easier with someone outside the family. I like to go in like a breath of fresh air."
Not all of Wyman's clients are dealing with a terminal illness. Riner resident, Betty Bowman has a handicap that inhibits her balance and mobility. Wyman visits her one day a week to clean, organize, assist with personal care and grooming, and whatever else Bowman needs.
"She takes me to the doctor and the grocery store," Bowman said. When asked if Wyman helps with cooking, Bowman explained that since her mother died four years ago she's been heating up frozen dinners in the microwave for herself; although she did remember a delicious bean salad that Wyman prepared from a recipe Bowman provided.
"Cleaning and cooking equal care. Whatever makes someone feel better is care," Wyman said, recalling a day she spent washing one client's entire knick knack collection. "Sometimes people feel better when their homes are clean and their lives are organized," she added.
Since the inception of New Day, Wyman has worked with approximately twenty clients. Some have been referred to her by other agencies, but most come by word of mouth. Although she provides services considered typical in her field, sometimes her work involves the unusual and requires some on the spot problem solving.
On one such occasion, she was flown to NY to transport a local family's elderly aunt, who had broken an ankle and was in rehab, back to Floyd. Upon arriving in New York and after locating the woman's apartment, Wyman packed a month's worth of whatever she thought the woman might need. She then negotiated the transport, first with rehab staff, and then with overzealous airport security, all the while reassuring the woman - who didn't know Wyman - that everything was okay. Her short term memory was failing but "she had a great sense of humor," Wyman remembered.
Support for care givers is an important component of Wyman's work. In 2004, after being approached by Our Lady of the Valley, an assisted Living and Nursing Care facility in Roanoke, Wyman presented an "Intuitive Emotional Clearing" workshop for care givers that involved guiding them through the use of creative outlets, such as music, art, and movement. Wyman has also facilitated the formation of a "Share the Care" circle in Floyd, based on the book of the same name. She says when she first saw the book, which outlines a step-by-step model for organizing group care for someone ill, she knew it was "the wave of the future."
Another aspect of the educational side of Wyman's work played out when she participated in a day long event called "Successful Elder Care," hosted by the Social Justice Committee of the Lutheran Churches of Floyd. She had planned to share a presentation about home assessment for people with limitations, something she and her husband do together, but ended up talking about Alzheimer care when another workshop leader who was scheduled to do that was unable to attend. Wyman remembers a fellow-presenter at the event who cited a Virginia Tech study on the growing needs of the aging population. "It was sobering," she remarked.
Following her involvement in the Zion Lutheran Church day of resource sharing, Wyman embarked on a new venture, "End of Life Development," with the intention of building on the educational outreach aspect of her work. Immediate plans include the formation of an advisory board made up of various professionals, social workers, doctors, clergy, and nurses - to determine what the greatest needs are for the aging population, she says. She also envisions workshops on how to manage progressive care, advance medical directives, and to set up proxy care for decision making. "Plans should be made before we are in crisis," she said.
Last month Wyman received non-profit status as a subsidy of the Community Educational Resource Cooperative (CERC) for "End of Life Development," along with a small seed grant. This support will be instrumental in assisting her educational initiatives in the community. It will also be helpful in allowing her do what she does best: easing the discomfort and grief of others and making it more viable for individuals at the end of life to remain home with their loved ones. "I consider every day spent at home a success. And sometimes you have to count these successes in days," Wyman says. ~ Colleen Redman