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Foundation helping displaced nursing home residents

Losing your home is devastating at any age. But it was particularly stressful for the residents of nursing homes in South Mississippi who had to relocate after Hurricane Katrina.

In some cases, the mostly senior citizen residents didn’t have time to gather up all of their possessions before evacuating. They were in a new place, often not in close proximity to friends and relatives, during a very stressful time.

But since the hurricane, hundreds of the residents who were evacuated have received assistance with purchasing medical and personal supplies from the Mississippi Health Care Foundation (MHCF).

“Displaced long-term care facility residents were relocated throughout the state, and supplies to help these residents and their caregivers were in great demand,” said Vanessa Henderson, MHCF executive director. “Countless individuals donated supplies and clothes, particularly much needed items such as syringes, sheets, pillows, lotions, toothbrushes, shaving cream, liquid feeding supplements, gowns, gloves and wash clothes.”

After Hurricane Katrina there was a tremendous response from across the country by individuals and private companies who wanted to help displaced residents. In some cases, the contributions came from other areas of the country where the devastation of hurricanes is all too familiar. For example, the Florida law firm Broad and Cassel, LLP, donated $5,000 to the MHCF to assist Gulf Coast nursing home residents.

“We learned of the devastation and hardship experienced by the nursing home residents and the folks that cared for them,” said Doug Mannheimer, a partner with Broad and Cassel. “Our employees wanted to do something to assist the helpless and those helping others. We know that many of these people lost everything they had.”

“There were so many people from all over the country who sent things,” said Harold Beebee, president of the MHCF. “We have been humbled by the level of support we have received throughout the country in this stressful situation. We give heartfelt thanks to the companies and citizens who have come to our aid with supplies and contributions. With their help and the assistance of staff at the nursing homes, we were able to get help to those who needed it.”

After the hurricane, the foundation gave $100 Wal-Mart gift cards to about 250 residents.

“There are always people who fall through the cracks in the system who don’t have a resource available to cover their needs,” said Steven Delaney, president of the Mississippi Health Care Association (MHCA), which helped form the MHCF.

“When they were evacuated, many of these people didn’t get to take all of their personal belongings. A lot of times people take care of their families with clothes and things. But there are people who don’t have families, and don’t have anyone to help them. This foundation is to help anyone who requests it.

“It is amazing what little effort and little money it takes to buy glasses or those type of items, and how much it means to people. These are the people who made this country great. Some of them fought in wars, or lost sons in wars. There is not a more deserving group of people in Mississippi than our residents in nursing homes.”

The MHCA’s mission is to focus on healthcare services to enhance the quality of life for long-term care residents. The organization is centered around the interests of providers of long-term care services, including skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded, personal care homes and assisted living facilities. MHCA is the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association (primarily for skilled nursing facilities) and its partner, the National Center for Assisted Living (primarily for personal care homes and assisted living facilities), which together serve as a voice and an advocate for long-term care facilities on the national level.

While Hurricane Katrina was hard on everyone, Delaney said the outpouring of support was a great thing to see. “It really feels good to give to that group of people,” he said. “They are salt-of-the-earth people. We can never repay them for the sacrifices they made to make Mississippi a great state, and this country a great nation.”

The foundation doesn’t just help in time of disaster. Candidates for help need only be a resident of a nursing home in Mississippi. In addition to supplies, contributions are used for a “Make a Memory” program that fulfills lifelong dreams by organizing special events and outings. One such event that was a big success was a boat outing on the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Another wish granted was a biplane ride.

Another MHCF program is to help nursing home staff develop more skills. Scholarships are available for continuing education in long-term healthcare fields, including nursing, social work and therapeutic activities.

More than $250,000 in monetary and in-kind donations have been received and dispersed since the foundation first began in February 2005.

Want more information? Visit the Web site at www.mshca.com/.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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