Senior Living Magazine
Marine Lance Corporal Charles Pierce very well remembers coming home from Vietnam back in the early 1970s – maybe because so many of his friends did not. His work as a field radio operator took him all over that country during a war where “everything was a front line,” he vividly recalls. Pierce, now a full-time resident at Continental Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 5336 N. Western Ave., noted that his re-entry into civilian life after being in the Marines from 1967 through 1971 was tough. In “Nam,” he said, marijuana and opioids were in plentiful use among the military. And yes, he took part freely.
For the first three years following his honorable discharge, he just “bummed around” Chicago trying to get his bearings while witnessing his brother, also a Vietnam vet, suffer with PTSD.
Finally, in 1974 Pierce - with constant urging from his mother - decided he’d better get a job. After some introspection, he realized that being a marine taught him one very critical thing about himself … an insight that would propel him into a successful work life.
“I learned that I really like working outside, no matter what the weather,” he said. Soon he was busy refueling jet planes at a Chicago airport and would do so for the next 27 years.
Pierce was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and was discharged at a rank of Private, but it came with a steep price: exposure to Agent Orange.
Senior Living Magazine
Part treasure hunter, part detective, Amanda Schmicker, the social services director at Continental Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 5336 N. Western Ave., is not easily dissuaded by bureaucratic complexity on behalf of her patients.
Schmicker, who is also a registered nurse and licensed nursing home administrator holds a Master of Business Administration, is known for her creativity and dogged persistence.
She has tracked down veterans’ benefits, long-forgotten pensions and trust funds, never-applied-for Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid assistance, even missing relatives. If Schmicker is on the case, patients can rest assured their “fortune” will be found.
“I learned to navigate the money maze simply by googling for information and teaching myself,” Schmicker said modestly. “I’d talk to patients who would tell me they were penniless, yet they had served our country as a veteran, honorably discharged, and had the medals and honors to prove it. It started me on a mission to get what was coming to them, to obtain the financial benefits they had earned and deserved. It completely turns their outlook around when suddenly they learn their future is brighter than they thought.”
Knowing patients’ income levels and financial resources is imperative for Schmicker in creating a successful discharge plan. Many veterans, Schmicker noted, don’t realize that they may qualify for homemaker services or home health visits once they’re back at home, or that they can receive additional monthly income from a little-known benefit called the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension.
In addition to linking veterans to appropriate funding, Schmicker has helped reunite families, even determining birth dates and birth places by using information from Facebook or Intelius.
One patient’s records indicated three different birth years, and when the patient said his records could be found in Bangor, Maine, they were actually located in Bangor, Michigan.
Schmicker is credited for launching a financial fraud investigation, tracking down misdirected funds from a trust fund on behalf of one of her patients. For a long time, a large sum of money covering rent, cell phone costs and other incidental expenses was sent to a location where her patient no longer resided. Schmicker followed the money trail to successfully reunite the patient once more with his funds.
Piecing together yet another puzzle helped a patient, now in his 40s, receive the Medicare benefits of his deceased parents. How did he qualify? He had been disabled as a youth while his parents were still living.
“I have a patient who worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years and never collected his retirement benefits,” Schmicker said. “I contacted the post office’s Office of Personnel Management for federal employees to learn what I could about activating his pension. Then I used Intelius to see if I could locate any relatives of his and finally found a niece who agreed to act as his healthcare surrogate. In his case, there were a lot of dots to connect.”
Schmicker noted that the insurance industry today is complex, with customer service contacts that only give callers the run-around. “Patients just give up,” she said. “When they don’t have family to assist them, are sick and struggling on their own, the entire process is just too overwhelming.”
And that’s why having a determined advocate like Schmicker is to everyone’s benefit.
One patient summed up her services well: “She’s the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Continental staff recently hosted a continuing education program for area healthcare professionals entitled, “Ethics: Am I Really Responsible?” presented by Deborah Byrd Goodwill. Deborah is a well-known continuing education provider throughout the State of Illinois with a varied list of almost two dozen timely topics. More than 60 healthcare professionals attended the evening event which included live music, networking, food and beverages. Guests were given tours and left with not only gift bags, but their CEU certificates conveniently in hand.
If you think you're seeing double while at Continental Nursing & Rehabilitation, you are! Claudette and Claudine Liban are identical twins along with being registered nurses who work in this long-term care facility at 5336 N. Western Ave. in Chicago. Luckily, each woman has a vastly different job, however, patients and families may still easily run into both during their stay or visit there.
"Even though I might be in a care plan meeting with serious things to discuss with patients and families, the minute they find out I'm a twin, and my twin also works in this building, the conversation immediately takes a different turn," Claudette said with an amused smile. "People are fascinated with the idea of twins and want to know all about the experience of having one."
Twin birth statistics in the U.S., as of 2013, show that twins accounted for three in 100 births. And, about 32 individuals out of every 1,000 is a twin.
On Oct. 23, 1980, the girls were born three months prematurely in the Philippines where their family resided at the time. Claudette was born first at 11:54 p.m. followed by Claudine at 11:59 p.m.
"What's amazing about our birth times," Claudette explained, "is that we could have been twins with completely different birthdays had Claudine showed up just one minute later!" As children they were identical in height and weight. Their mother dressed them in identical outfits. Even their voices sound the same. However, as they grew, Claudine eventually identified nursing as her career choice and Claudette followed her lead.
The women now have 17 years of longterm care experience after starting out working as teens in a nursing home close to their home. From that experience, they went on to become certified nursing assistants while also studying for their nursing degrees. They attended Evanston Township High School followed by Oakton Community College. Today, Claudette is Continental's assistant director of nursing and Claudine is the MDS Coordinator which includes assessing patients in a way that helps formulate and implement individual care plans.
"Growing up as a twin was fun," said Claudine, who is described as the social butterfly of the two. "We're both Cubs fans and foodies checking out all the fabulous restaurants Chicago has to offer. Claudette is always taking photos of the food we're served!"
For relaxation, the twins also enjoy visiting Chicago's museum campus and in particular the Shedd Aquarium. There they find environments like coral reefs, along with sharks, exotic fish, and stingrays that remind them of their childhood summers along the water in the Philippines.
"Because our professional lives are so hectic, it is nice to create a serene experience on our own time, and going to the Shedd is a nice outlet for us," Claudette added.
What's the best part of being a twin? Both women quickly agreed that the highlight is always having someone to talk to or to spend time with. Claudette added, "My sister is very smart - she's so knowledgeable and always gives good advice. I really appreciate that." Looks like that feeling is mutual.
Senior Living - December 7th, 2016
The statistics are sobering - kidney disease is on the rise in the United States today. One in 10 American adults (more than 20 million people) now have some level of chronic kidney disease. End-stage renal disease is especially hard-hitting among African Americans at a rate that is three times higher than for Caucasians.