July 14, 2010
Home Care director retiring after 23 years
McGraw native Cindy Craig is retiring this month as executive director of Home Care for Cortland County, a position she has held the last ten years.
Craig was with the agency for 23 years and plans to continue in a part-time capacity.
The agency provides home health aides on a contractual basis to patients of all ages in need of services throughout the county.
The agency is state registered to train home health aides, teaching people during a 15-day course how to provide personal care for patients such as bathing, grooming, and bed transfers.
Patients can be recovering from an illness or hospital stay and need help doing their physical therapy from their home, for example.
Craig said the most important aspect of the agency is that it allows people to stay at home.
“That’s where they want to be,” Craig said.
Home Care for Cortland County contracts with several different agencies such as the county Health Department, Cortland Regional Medical Center, the Veteran’s Administration, the department of Social Services and the Area Agency on Aging.
These agencies seek aides or registered nurses through the Home Care agency, which currently has a staff of 50.
Craig said home care is important to patients because it allows for individual attention, as opposed to a hospital where everyone has to be fit into a nurse’s schedule.
“When you’re in the hospital you are at the mercy of others for care. When they finish with the patient next door they’ll get to you,” Craig said.
Home care allows an individualized approach to patient treatment, she said.
Craig was hired by the agency in 1986 as a registered nurse who supervised the field staff, which entailed going to homes and overseeing the care that aides delivered to patients.
At that time the agency had a staff of 90 and provided 90,000 agency hours in a year. Over the years, because of state budget cutbacks and because of changing Medicare payments, the staff had to be cut and the hours of service the agency provides each year has dropped to 62,000.
Craig said this was a challenge faced by the agency along with increased state reporting regulations and the uncertain economic climate of the past few years. Craig said the agency is still receiving the 2009 reimbursement rates for Medicaid cases because no state budget has passed yet. The 2009 rate is less than the 2010 rate that should be received, and Craig said the situation will adversely impact the benefits that employees will receive.
But Craig pointed to the benefits of her career path, saying the nursing field opens doors for people.
Craig received her nursing degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College and had been a nurse at a doctor’s office for ten years prior to coming to Home Care.
The agency paid for her continuing education and Craig received her master’s of nursing degree in 1995 from SUNY Health Science Center.
She lives in McGraw with her husband, Gerald, a retired dairy farmer. Their daughter Julie is a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland and their son Gerald is an engineer in Albany.
Craig said she will continue with Home Care on a part-time basis to help the transition go smoothly for the new executive director, Robert Austin, who will handle the administrative duties while Craig will help continue to oversee the clinical operations until the agency hires a clinical director.
But Craig, who said she enjoyed nursing because of her love of people, will continue with the agency beyond that as an aide or a nurse or wherever she is needed.
“It is about the people and making a difference in someone’s day. The ability for someone to get up and get out of bed,” Craig said.
Sharon Stevans, former Area Agency on Aging director, and a board member of Home Care for Cortland County, described Craig as the calmest person she ever met.
“Her demeanor is always calm and collected and she’s thoughtful. She doesn’t speak and say something until she has had a chance to do some research,” Stevans said.Stevans credited Craig’s leadership with making it possible for Home Care for Cortland County to continue to thrive in the county despite a trend toward larger for-profit organizations.
Stevans said Craig’s focus on staff development has ensured the agency has aides who are ready at a day’s notice to fill a request anywhere in the county.
Aides with Home Care are paid benefits and mileage reimbursement, Stevans said.
In hiring employees, Craig said she has always focused on excellent level of care.
In her reference checks, Craig said she always asks people one question.
“I ask, ‘is the person someone you would let take care of your own mother?’” Craig said.
“I have always provided care with that in mind, ‘how would you want to be taken care of?’” she said.
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