Man Gains Untraditional Family Out of Home Care Services

Lee Fugate

In 1991, Lee Fugate suffered a broken back and severe neck injuries, as a result of a horrific highway motorcycle accident.

Lee never fully recovered, and over time, the chronic pain in his back and neck began to limit his mobility. In recent years, he rarely left his second floor apartment. The stairs were too steep, he was too weak and his body was hurting. Even going out to get food was too much of an undertaking. To get by, he began relying on deliveries of pizza a few days a week.

One of the only reasons Lee, age 56, did leave the apartment was to visit his primary care doctor. The doctor, who could see that Lee’s health was rapidly deteriorating and that his morale was in decline, made a referral to UnityPoint at Home for home care services.

“I had a low point in my life there,” said Lee. “The doctor was asking me questions like, ‘What do you want to happen when you have a heart attack?’ ‘Well, just let me go.’ I told him. I’d rather die quick than die slow. I had just given up, and I felt like I just wanted it over with.”

Lydia Rothfusz, a social worker with UnityPoint at Home, was one of the team members who initially met with Lee. In talking with Lee at his apartment, she could see he was struggling to get by. He had relatively few furnishings. He was sleeping on an air mattress and rarely got up from it. And, the pizza boxes were stacking up in the apartment.

“At the time we got involved, I was questioning whether or not he was hospice appropriate,” said Lydia. “He was declining, he was frail and he didn’t look like he was doing well at all.”

Lydia and the team at UnityPoint at Home moved into action and contacted a variety of community resources. First, the team found a first-level handicap accessible apartment for Lee and worked with a local church to help with the deposit needed. They then contacted the local police, who provided funds through a program to furnish his apartment. They also found him a bed. Next, they coordinated with Meals on Wheels to deliver regular, healthy meals to Lee’s new apartment.

Lee also began taking advantage of services directly from UnityPoint at Home. A home care nurse now monitors his health and relays information to his doctor. Home health aides help with laundry and other housekeeping needs. A physical therapist works with Lee to help decrease his pain and increase his mobility. A volunteer visits with Lee regularly, providing much needed company and helping him with various errands.

“You can’t imagine not having nobody and then, all of a sudden, having it,” said Lee. “It’s like you have family again. You know you can count on someone when before you had nobody.”

In the six months since being connected with UnityPoint at Home, Lee’s spirits and health have improved considerably. He now has the strength to get outside on his own with his walker, and he can make meals for himself.

“There’s been so much opening up in his life,” says Lydia. “He’s got a lot of living left to do, and I think he’s able to embrace life a lot more fully now. He is doing so well I don’t think we’ll have a care team in place for him much longer because he doesn’t need us, which is the best outcome possible.”

“When you go from nothing to actually getting up and doing something it’s a big change,” said Lee. “It’s a large step. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all the help.”


Lee's Story from UnityPoint Health on Vimeo.