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‘He didn’t have anywhere to go’

Patient navigators help 90-year-old surgery patient care for his son with Down Syndrome



When 90-year-old Roy Hall broke his hip after a recent fall in his kitchen, he wasn’t only focused on his surgery and road to recovery.

Hall, who lives in Winston-Salem, has a bit more responsibility than most people his age. He’s the primary caregiver for his 53-year-old son Brian Hall, who has Down syndrome. With no one available to watch over Brian while Hall would be in rehab, he worried about what would happen to  his son and whether there were even any options to pursue on such short notice.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Hall’s Novant Health patient navigator Meghan Rousseau (shown above with Roy Hall) to realize her team needed to work toward finding a solution.

Patient navigators with Novant Health are trained to help patients and families understand their diagnosis and treatment options, and also work to coordinate follow-up treatment. The service is free and available to patients battling a range of issues. Rousseau was able to quickly place Hall in a rehab facility where Brian could stay in the same room with his own bed next to his father’s. Brian’s portion of the stay would be covered except for the cost of Brian’s meals.

Father and son have been living together since 2006, when Hall decided to take Brian out of a group home so the two could keep each other company. They have been especially close since 2008, after Brian’s mother died.

“Brian drives a lot of the decisions I make because, as you’ve probably guessed, he comes first,” Hall said recently from a rehab room on the north side of Winston-Salem. Brian stood facing his father in the room, warmly greeting any staff or other visitors who’d come in.

 “It’s a labor of love.,” Hall said. “We go together everywhere we go. He flies copilot and fastens the seatbelt when I tell him to.”

Hall said he had no idea it was going to be possible for him to find an outpatient rehab where Brian could stay with him.  After Hall was injured, Brian stayed with a family friend, but that situation fell through and it looked like Brian had nowhere else to go.

Hall said Rousseau is a miracle worker for all the help she provided. “I didn’t have the foggiest idea about any of it,” Hall said. “I was so glad to see her and know she was in the picture.

“I was very pleased when they said Brian could come over here with me. He didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Rousseau wound up helping place Hall and Brian at Salemtowne, a non-Novant Health retirement community in Winston-Salem’s Old Town neighborhood that recently opened a new building with private transitional rehab rooms.

Salemtowne also went an extra step and came up with ways to keep Brian active during his stay. Brian was able to go around with Michelle Andraos, the facility’s team leader for activities, and helped her set up for games like bingo for the facility’s longer-term residents.

“Patients can pick wherever they want to go, but we have a good relationship with some places already, and that’s why I reached out to Salemtowne,” Rousseau said. “I knew they would try to help us rather than dismiss it. It wasn’t your ordinary case.”

Just a couple of days before he was to be discharged from Salemtowne to go home, Hall was in good spirits and doing well. And the retired attorney called on his well-honed sense of humor to drive home the point.

“I hope that in a month or two, I’ll be able to get around at home just like normal,” he said. “That my hip will be fine and I’ll be able to run and jump just like all the other little boys and girls.” He smiled as he noted how the “other little boys and girls” line was a reference borrowed from his favorite Southern humorist, the late Lewis Grizzard.

For her part, Rousseau said she loves helping patients work through issues and devising solutions that work for them. She said that her team has seen some strong results from their work, cutting recovery from an average of 32 days to just 17 in the past six months. “That means less new falls, less readmissions and less complications” for a lot of her patients, Rousseau said.

She said that navigators keep in touch with patients recovering from surgery, touching base on a weekly basis, and sometimes dropping by for a visit.

The Halls, now back at home, plan to continue living together. Hall also wants to see Brian start playing golf again and said he feels bad that his son had to miss a Sept. 5 golf tournament.

Whatever they do, though, they’ll do together. Hall laughed at the way Brian puts it: “As he says, he’s not with me, I’m with him.”  

To learn more about Novant Health navigator services, click here.

Above from left to right: Michelle Andraos, Brian Hall, Carlotta Lambert at Salemtowne.




Published: 9/18/2017