OSF opens transition health center for kids with complicated care needs

By Holly Eitenmiller For Chronicle Media

Staff gather for a group photo on the spacious porch of the OSF HealthCare Almost Home Kids facility on Hamilton Road in Peoria. The home is the third of its kind to provide transitional care for children with complicated health needs, and will begin accepting patients on Sept. 24. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/for Chronicle Media)

Even though there’s no place like home, OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois is bringing transitional care as close to home as possible.

On Sept. 24, the Almost Home Kids (AHK) home on Hamilton Road in Peoria will open its doors to young patients who need transitional care due to complicated health needs. These are children who may be ready to be discharged from the hospital before their families are fully prepared to bring them home.

“This relieves some of the anxiety that they have in taking their child home, because here they’re getting training and practice in caring for their child,” AHK Community Outreach Coordinator Cheryl Murin explained. “It’s not just showing them how to do something once and then sending them on. Now, parents can take them from the hospital into a homelike setting to get the training they need. There can be a lot to learn when you don’t have a medical background.”

AHK Peoria is the third facility of its kind in the nation. OSF became affiliated with AHK and began a fundraising campaign several years ago in hopes of launching a Peoria home. AHK also has homes in Chicago and Naperville.

Peoria’s home can host up to 12 children, and provide them with cozy bedrooms, dressed in soothing decor. Most of the windows face either north or south, lighting each room with natural, diffused light. There are six spacious adjoining bathrooms shared by two bedrooms each.

“Twelve is what we’re licensed for. If you go above 12 then the licensing is different and you’re more of a hospital or some other different category,” Murin said. “Our case managers work with OSF and other hospitals in determining eligibility and placement.”

The OSF HealthCare Almost Home Kids house on Hamilton Road will provide 24-hour medical and nursing support for up to 12 children. Each child is provided a cozy room with a fold-out single bed for relatives who may occasionally stay overnight. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/for Chronicle Media)

All homes are staffed with a full-time nursing staff, equipped to meet the needs of all residents and have a team of volunteers called life specialists who engage with the children, hold them, read to them, play with them and stimulate them.

“At the Naperville facility, volunteers will say they read to a child, and the child fell asleep. That’s OK, because the child is relaxed,” Murin said. “Their parents can’t always be there. They’re working, or getting their home ready to care for their child.”

Life Specialists serve as a liaison to parents, and work in tandem with physical and occupational therapists. The physical therapy room at AHK Peoria also features a toy closet with donated toys and art supplies aimed at keeping children active and stimulating development.

“Along with little ones, we may have developmentally challenged teens, and some of them are not developmentally their age,” she said. “They like to interact, even if they’re non-verbal, and they need the stimulation.”

Because most of the children and their families live locally, there’s no need for family members to live with their children at AHK. Each room does, however, include a pull-out single bed for occasional sleep-overs and there is a mandatory 24-hour stay just before a child is sent home.

This is like the final exam time for parents, a time to practice what they’ve learned to assure the best possible outcome upon returning home.

Children may stay for up to 120 days, and, after the discharge, families are granted two weeks per year of respite care.

Almost Home Kids Community Outreach Coordinator Cheryl Murin poses for a staff photo beside kite-shaped donor recognition plaques. Some funded one of the 12 bedrooms at the home on Hamilton Road in Peoria. Others funded rehabilitation rooms, playground equipment and building wings. OSF HealthCare will continue to rely primarily on volunteers and donations to operate the home. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/for Chronicle Media)

“They can stay for short times, like a weekend, while mom and dad take other children or family out of town to places their child can’t travel to,” she said.

Much of the time, children and their families will gather in the Family Room, a common area that features an airy vault ceiling, comfy chairs and couches, a large television, dining tables and a fully-equipped kitchen.

Or they may also venture outside, to a beautifully landscaped, fenced in backyard, with paved paths, ample seating and a large playground. Landscaping and building maintenance will be provided by volunteers and paid for by donations, Murin said.

“The OSF Foundation did some fundraising for years to pay for this, and there will be ongoing fundraising for an endowment, and ongoing community outreach,” she said. “We’ll also have volunteers playing with the children along with life specialists.”

Those who may be interested in becoming an AHK volunteer should visit the OSF website at www.osfhealthcare.org/childrens/services/almost-home-kids, and may also be found by searching Almost Home Kids OSF on Google.

The site also offers a link for monetary donations, as well as links to AHK’s Target and Amazon wish lists.





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