By Noelle H. Lowery
Rosalind “Roz” Minicozzi is a woman of faith, and during a vacation in Southwest Florida more than 20 years ago, the president and CEO of Always There Home Health Care decided to take a giant leap of faith to open a second office for her New Jersey-base home health care agency on Marco Island.
Today, that office is celebrating 20 years of service to the homebound, infirm and elderly on Marco Island and in its surrounding communities. The firm’s Marco office is located at 317 N. Collier Blvd. in Suite 201. Always There also has three locations in New Jersey.
“When I was on vacation then, (my friends) told me that they didn’t have anything like Always There here,” Minicozzi remembers. “I called up my business partner, and she said do it. So, I rented a storefront…It was something that was needed in the community. I have never looked at this as a job…I wanted to do God’s work and help God’s people…I really feel I have been put into this as a ministry.”
Minicozzi entered the home health care industry by chance. Originally a teacher and reading specialist with two masters degrees, Minicozzi was forced to retire early after she became ill nearly 30 years ago. “I got sick, and couldn’t teach anymore,” she explains. “My sickness was such that I could not walk.”
Her diagnosis: Multiple Sclerosis.
During this time, she had a nurse come to her home to check on her and care for her. “She came to stay with me a lot, and I asked her one day, ‘What do people do who don’t have a friend like you?’.”
As time progressed, Minicozzi improved, and because of her experience with her care giver, she decided to open Always There. She firmly believes her bout with MS was divine intervention. “Most of the people that called that first year had MS,” recounts Minicozzi. “MS is a disease of the soul, but when you take the stress away and you are less stressed, things change. I have never had another relapse…I was devastated when I had to give up teaching…Who would have thought that God was preparing me for something different?”
The team at Always There handles all aspects of home health care — from picking someone up from the hospital to straightening up their homes to setting up their medication schedule. They also work with terminally ill patients and hospice, and will go to the hospital to be at a patient’s bedside as well as assisted living facilities. They also provide 24/7 care for patients, staying in the home with them.
The office is staffed by five employees, two of whom are registered nurses — Cathy Levesque and Jeannene Rutherford. Their primary function is go out and assess the level of care of each patient. Always There also has a roster of 50 care givers who handle the daily demands of caring for clients. Janel Hanna-Sine heads up administration and is a licensed practical nurse, assisted by Linda Hanna and Katie Malone.
“We are not like other agencies,” Minicozzi notes. “Our care givers will drop everything to stop by to make someone smile…All they have to do is call…They are angels.”
Still, the home health care industry comes with a special set of challenges, especially when it comes to hiring qualified care givers. According to Minicozzi, “the paperwork is extraordinary. There are 42 pieces of information in each of our verified care giver’s file, everything from background checks to car insurance.”
Always There employees must verify that they have been tested for Tuberculosis and other highly-contagious communicable diseases. They also must attend an orientation and employee training sessions.
“Some times it can be difficult finding the right mix,” she says. “We work at it until we find the right fit.”
Minicozzi also helps those seeking advice about securing a qualified, licensed home health care aide. “As much as, you may not want to go through an agency, you should,” she warns. “Agencies go through all of the background checks and medical checks. Our care givers are cleared by the state and are insured…If you want to hire someone to come into your home privately, you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into when you just answer an ad from the newspaper. People just don’t know what they are getting sometimes.”
In the end, it really is about connecting with others for Minicozzi: “I love being able to connect the right people to the right care giver…Once the stress of worrying about being a burden on family and friends is over, they can then begin to recuperate and reach the point where they can care for themselves. It’s always a happy time when our clients reach that point.”
Minicozzi relates the story of one of her clients who thought she was at the end of her life when she found Always There. Now, 15 years later, the client’s outlook is quite different. “We are still providing her care,” Minicozzi smiles. “However, she is happy in her own home entertaining long-time friends, who visit her often. The client has told us, ‘If I were in a nursing home, they’d never be able to drive there, and then I’d never see anybody. I think I can do this for another 15 years!’.”