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Published on March 14, 2016

A place to call home

Halloween was about a week away when Thomas Slaybaugh moved into his new home. But he says of that autumn day, “I felt like it was Christmas!”

Here’s how Mercy LIFE helped Thomas find a new home—with a unique kind of care provider.

Oh, no, bedbugs!

In July 2015, Thomas was living in a group home. On weekdays, he went to the Mercy LIFE Adult Day Center in North Philadelphia. “You get two meals a day, there are doctors and nurses to look after you, and I can shoot pool and meet people,” he says. “It gets me out of the house.”

There was a time, though, when Thomas was stuck in the house, thanks to some truly gross roommates: bedbugs.

“Our policy is to keep participants at home until they are clear of bedbugs, so they can’t spread [them] to others,” says Suzanne Sztul, LSW, Thomas’s social worker at Mercy LIFE.

But the bedbugs at the group home weren’t being taken care of by the management of the facility.
So the Mercy LIFE team put their heads together to come up with a plan to remove Thomas from the unhealthy situation. Thomas was moved temporarily to a short-term nursing facility while the team searched for a permanent solution.

“Going to the nursing facility was kind of strange,” Thomas says. “I had to ask for everything. They lock up your belongings, including your money. I couldn’t have anything with me in my room.”

Knowing a nursing facility was just a temporary solution, Thomas made the best of his stay. Sztul got him on a waiting list for domiciliary care—Dom Care for short. This special type of care was offered through the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA).

Finding a new place

PCA Dom Care is for adults 18 and older who want to stay in a community setting but cannot safely live on their own. They’re matched with care providers in the community who have room in their homes—and their hearts—for up to two new “family members.” PCA Dom Care homes must meet standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

“In Dom Care, people receive help with laundry, meals and errands,” Sztul says. “I knew Thomas could use these services.”

When a Dom Care home became available, Thomas had a couple of visits with the family and even spent the night. “He liked it, and they liked him,” Sztul recalls.

“They” are certified Dom Care provider Cynthia Alston and two other household members. In Alston’s brick home just a block from bustling Germantown Avenue, Thomas has his own comfortable room—it’s blue, gray and white. He is able to relax and enjoy one of his favorite pastimes: watching sports. His sister is also working on getting him some family photos to display.

“I get three meals a day, privacy and help if I need it,” Thomas says. “Cynthia takes me anyplace I want to go.”

Home at last

“We are extremely grateful to PCA and Cynthia Alston,” Sztul says.

Along with Mercy LIFE services, PCA’s Dom Care program is another option for seniors if they find themselves in a difficult living situation but are unable to live alone.

Asked if he feels like he’s found a home, Thomas says, “I believe so.” He still enjoys getting out of the house, of course. On weekdays, Thomas still goes to the Mercy LIFE center to shoot pool and enjoy the company of other happy and healthy seniors.

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