A new service on the North Fork is bringing comprehensive medical care home to the elderly and infirm.
Physician assistant Steve Templeton of Greenport watched his mother struggle to get her elderly and ill father to doctors’ offices and labs for exams and tests.
“When you’re elderly and sick, have trouble getting around and have to rely on others to get you to appointments outside your home, going to the doctor or going for a test turns into an all-day ordeal,” Templeton said.
The 32-year-old PA set out to change that by setting up a medical practice that brings care to patients where they live — providing everything from routine exams to blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds, physical therapy and more.
With Shelter Island doctor Nathanael Desire, DO, Templeton founded Medical House Calls of the North Fork in January with the goal of making appropriate medical care accessible for the elderly and homebound.
But since their first house call, Templeton said, they’ve gotten an eye-opening education in the plight of the elderly.
“If you spent a day with me, you would go home, put your head down on your kitchen table and cry,” said Templeton, who is board-certified in geriatrics, emergency medicine and internal medicine.
The population of the two North Fork towns is older than most other towns on Long Island, with a larger percentage of people 65 and older (and 75 and older) than other places. And a large swath of the elderly population is living in poverty and neglect, without family nearby to help care for them, Templeton said.
“To see how some of our elderly veterans are living, people who fought to save our country…It’s so sad,” he said. So many elderly people — not only veterans — are living alone in conditions Templeton calls “absolutely terrible.”
“They’re alone and lonely — 95 percent of my patients suffer from depression and anxiety,” Templeton said.
The House Calls team works with agencies like the Dominican Sisters to help folks in need, but Templeton has decided to take it a step further by establishing a nonprofit organization that will meet his patients non-medical needs as well.
“Our patients become like family to us,” he said.
When someone goes to a doctor’s office for an exam or a text, the doctor sees the patient in a sterile, artificial environment for a few brief moments.
“When you go into someone’s home, you learn so much more about their health — physical, mental and emotional. You see how they live. You see what’s in their fridge. You see what their bathroom’s like. You understand their needs,” he said. “A 10-minute meeting in an exam room doesn’t give you any of that. We see things that other providers don’t see.”
Templeton and the House Calls staff have been “a real godsend,” said Greenport resident Martine Maoirana, 68, who is wheelchair-bound and is a caregiver for an adult son with Down Sydrome.
“I can’t say enough good things about Steve and the staff,” she said. “Whenever I had to get to a doctor, I had to find a friend with the time and ability to drive us to an appointment and back home. It could be very difficult.”
Now, the care comes to her. “And they really care. They care so much about you. It really shows,” Maoirana said. “I can pick up the phone at any time and reach someone. They always take the time to listen.”
Though Templeton has a heart for the elderly, his training in emergency medicine allows House Calls of the North Fork to provide a mobile urgent care service that goes right to the home or workplace to handle things like suturing wounds — and eliminating the need for a trip to the ER.
The medical practice accepts Medicare and participates in most insurance plans.
We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.