By Amy Nicole Tangel
A new initiative called, Let the Family Help, is gaining support for its plan to create an exception for caregivers during a state of emergency. The proposal would allow patients to have one caregiver per family with them while being treated in nursing homes and hospitals.
Making it her goal to take the lead is long-time philanthropist and founder of Stepping Stone Support, an all-volunteer non-profit organization helping men and women affected by cancer. Renee Lynn Scott, 49, of Eastport, NY, has taken on a personal crusade to help erase the word “alone” for patients and to ease the burden of medical professionals in nursing homes and hospitals.
Renee says safety is of the utmost importance, and she said she believes it is necessary and possible for caregivers to not only help their loved ones recover, but to free dedicated doctors and nurses in beneficial ways. The plan for patients to be allowed one caregiver with them in medical facilities is a movement, Renee said, for all patients who need medical care whatever the disease and not to be focused solely on COVID19.
“There are so many thousands of other illnesses out there that people are being treated for, but they (bureaucratic decisionmakers) seem to be only focused on the virus,” she said.
Recently, Renee and fellow supporters have petitioned legislators and county executives for their voices to be heard. In a letter written to politicians, Renee is asking the government to allow caregivers to help their family members. She suggests exceptions be made to allow a single family member, or designated person to help care for their sick one in facilities as they have always done before, after they have been properly screened. In addition to screening for COVID19, she proposes caregivers who are cleared be required to wear acceptable protective gear and to sign a waiver releasing any facility from liability.
“Once a person has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, they don’t just fight physically; they fight it emotionally and mentally. I personally know the struggles families face dealing with cancer from diagnosis to treatment,” she wrote.
At the age of 28, Renee was diagnosed with Stage 1B Cervical Cancer. She said the news of her cancer left her feeling devastated and shocked, and in 2005 she made it her life’s mission to help other survivors and their families make their way through life with cancer by creating Stepping Stone Support.
Not only has Renee spent the past 15 years creating programs such as, Survivor’s Little Helper, an annual event which provides gifts for the holidays and necessary winter items to cancer patients in treatment, but she is a patient advocate, survivor sister and was helplessly watching her 93-year-old aunt go through COVID19 alone recently while being emotionally traumatized. Her aunt was admitted to the hospital for treatment and has since recovered and returned to her nursing home, but Renee said the emotional damage from being alone left the family feeling devastated.
“I think if you ask every single family out there who has somebody who is dealing with it (COVID19) in a hospital setting, they would tell you they want a change,” she said.
Stacy Sbaschnik, 48, of Manorville, N.Y., and long-time supporter of Stepping Stone Support is on board with the Let the Family Help initiative, and her current situation is a reflection of what many families are facing with a loved one. Her 73-year-old father is fighting for his life in ICU with COVID19. Her father, who has pre-existing medical conditions from a 4- year battle with lung cancer, is now free of cancer but facing another disease alone.
Stacy’s mother is presently his primary caregiver, but she said when her father was receiving treatment for cancer, she was by his bedside every day. While her father is on a ventilator and unable to communicate, Stacy said she has tried to stay positive and strong while waiting for updates from the hospital, and her family is very grateful for the care he is receiving. But she worries at times that he will give up because nobody is there.
“I try to look at it like, I don’t know what they are going through there either. I don’t know how many patients they have. I am sure it is hard for everyone who is going through this,” she said.
Over the years, Renee said she has developed meaningful relationships with fellow charitable volunteer organizations. She has partnered with those in her community who are now offering their support for Let the Family Help.
Cassy Caputo, 65, of Center Moriches, N.Y., is Chairperson of Helping Makes U Happy, a non-profit organization that supports those in need in her local community along with her son and Founder, Keith Caputo. Her recent petition to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office not only included Renee’s letter, but Cassy’s own personal plea.
Keith,39, lives with a developmental disability. He has a passion for helping others and has helped countless people throughout the years, but he depends completely on Cassy. Keith is the boss, Cassy said and the thought of Keith ever having to be alone in the hospital makes her so emotional it brings her to tears. Cassy said she personally knows other developmentally disabled individuals who have had to be hospitalized and passed from the virus and how terrifying and confusing it was for them to be alone.
“It’s a horrible experience for anyone to be alone while fighting the virus, but for a developmentally disabled person for whom you have been their advocate their whole life, even more so. Plain and simple-Keith would die. If not of the virus, of a broken heart because he would feel I had deserted him,” she said.
Renee said it’s imperative for those who want to protect their loved ones and support the proposed Let the Family Help Initiative to contact their state Senators and Governor Cuomo’s office. For additional information, emails can be sent to RSCOTT@steppingstonesupport.org To keep up to date on the latest information, you can follow, Let the Family Help-COVID19 on Facebook. To sign the petition visit, http://chng.it/SVdWQthTQn