Meet Willie Lods from the RISE Life Services Northville ICF. Willie is the oldest resident in the ICF program at 80 years young. He has lived in his home for 30+ years. Anyone who knows Willie, knows that his favorite thing in this world is coffee. This past year was a challenging one for Willie. Throughout May and June of 2018, Willie was admitted to the hospital several times for Aspiration Pneumonia. After multiple tests, it was determined that Willie was silently aspirating every time that he ate, which was giving him Chronic Pneumonia. He was malnourished, constantly sick, and unhappy. Ultimately, the doctors determined that his only options would be either placing a feeding tube into his stomach, or to make him comfortable and allow him to pass peacefully.  This was an obviously difficult decision for his family, who understood the ramifications of the feeding tube and how it would affect his quality of life. They were also concerned that he would not be able to return to his home with the feeding tube.  At that point in time, RISE Life Services did not have any individuals with a feeding tube.  It is an intimidating task and the training for this is extensive. However, after discussing the options at length, the team at Northville decided that we would do everything possible to bring Willie back to his home. So, the family consented and the feeding tube was placed.

After Willie returned home, the nursing department trained all of the staff in the 6-tube feeding per day, the water flushes, and the administration of medication through the feeding tube. The OPWDD regulations to be certified in tube feedings are extensive and required much oversight and long hours by the nursing department. The first few weeks were very difficult, as it took time to train each staff member fully.  In addition, Willie was not used to being unable to eat by mouth. He was increasingly agitated, consistently asked for his coffee, and began to take others food if it was within reach, which became a safety risk.

Throughout the year, Willie has routinely gone to the doctor and has had multiple swallow studies completed to assess his ability to swallow safely. As time went on, his meals through the feeding tube were slowly decreased. Willie became stronger and eventually oral food was added back to his diet and the amount he was able to handle by mouth was slowly increased. Detailed and accurate data was required by the staff to monitor for any signs and symptoms of aspiration during each increase. As of June 6, 2019, Willie no longer receives any of these meals through the feeding tube and can eat all of his food by mouth, including his coffee and he is happier than ever.

Willie’s progress is attributed to the dedication of his treatment team, in particular the RN for the house, Megan Beach, and all of the direct care staff. Their determination to help Willie regain his strength has resulted in him thriving and living the best life possible.  Willie’s story is just another example of what this agency and its employees are capable of doing and how important this work is. It is also an example of how something so small, such as a cup of coffee, could mean so much to someone.

By: Meghan Smith, ICF Program Director

RISE Life Services provides a residential and supported living environment on the East End of Long Island, dedicated to empowering people with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges to RISE to their full potential. To learn more about RISE Life Services, residential housing, job opportunities and other programs, please browse our website or call 631-727-6220 ext. 203 with any questions.