An alternative to the nursing home

Published 10:45 pm Friday, June 15, 2012

When Jerrell Harden sees a need, he does something about it.

That’s the way of the Hardens of the Shiloh community.

Harden and his dad, the late J.C. Harden, his brother Leo Harden and his son Russell, have accumulated 13 patents related to row crop farming. They have sold 12 patents to eight companies in six states. That’s quite a resume for a farm family in rural Pike County.

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“When you farm, you know what you need – what will work best – and, if it’s not available, then you ‘make’ it available,” Jerrell Harden said.

Millions of acres are being farmed today using methods introduced and implements designed by the Hardens of Pike County.

At age 81, Jerrell Harden has turned his focus from farming to finding ways to make life better for the elderly and the handicapped.

“And, what I’m doing is the best thing that I have ever done and the most important thing I have ever done,” Harden said.

Seven years ago, Harden’s 98-year-old mother-in-law, Inez Phillips, moved in with him and his wife, Jeanette, following surgery for a broken hip.

The wheels in Harden’s head started turning in an effort to find ways to make his mother-in-law’s life more comfortable.

“My parents had passed away earlier, my dad at age 98 and my mother at age 96,” Harden said. “I had built equipment to help them be more mobile.”

The equipment that Harden designed for his parents and his mother-in-law met many of the needs for the elderly. His brother, Thelton, suggested that he put all of that equipment in a mobile building designed specifically for the elderly and handicapped.

“The idea of the Med-Home was born,” Harden said. “I spent a couple of years drawing blueprints for the portable home. It took six designs before I had something the public needed.”

The idea was a good one but a novel one so Harden realized that investors would not be knocking at his door wanting to build it for him. With his experience and abilities, Harden decided to build the Med-Home himself.

He started on the project when he was 78 years old and, with the help of his son, Russell, built all of the implements for the Med-Home. It took more than two and a half years. He designed a building to meet the specific needs of the elderly and the handicapped.

“This is the first thing that I have built that is better in reality than it was in my imagination,” Harden said. “And, it has more potential than anything we have done.”

To date, Harden has one implement patented, one implement with a patent pending and three more are in the patent process.

“In the past when a family was unable to care for a handicapped relative the choices were either hiring people to come to their home and care for their loved one or put them in a nursing home,” Harden said. “The average cost of a nursing home is $85,775 a year – that’s according to the Wall Street Journal. The Med-Home offers an alternative that allows most patients, including paraplegic patients, to care for themselves without assistance while reducing the cost by 70 percent.”

Harden’s Med-Home is designed so that a patient can safely and relatively easily take care of all his or her personal needs and enjoy the independence that comes with living at home.

The bed is considered the focal point of the Med-Home. On the right side of the bed, Harden’s Med-Home features a chair lift on a revolving circular platform that has safety arms the extend over the bed.

“These safety arms allow most patients to get in and out of bed and into the Med-Chair without assistance,” Harden said. “The chair can rotate to the kitchen area so the patient can reach the sink, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, oven and the pantry. The cabinets have a turntable for easy access and accessible storage drawers that can be easily reached from the chair.”

The chair also gives the patient access to the work area, which has a revolving three-foot shelf with seven electrical outlets, a retractable dinner tray and a fold-in laptop tray.

“The Med-Chair also has extendable exercise bars,” Harden said. “By using a grab stick, the patient can reach retrieve any item from the appliances or storage areas.”

The restroom facilities are on the left side of the Med-Home and feature a lavatory, medicine cabinet and a specially designed shower stall with a pivoting seat that will transport the patient in and out of the shower and to the toilet.

The shower is designed with a heat lamp and a low shower curtain to provide protection from water splatter if a patient needs assistance with their baths.

“Whoever is helping a patient with a bath, usually gets drench and so does the floor,” Harden said. “The low curtain keeps that from happening. That is just one of the many little things that we have included that make the Med-Home unique. The home also features a washer-dryer combination so the patient can do their own laundry.”

The Med-Home has an overhead hoist to assist the patient with getting into and out of bed, a heat pump/AC unit, a special wheel chair with safety bars and a self-guided wheelchair ramp, a wall mounted television and a portable plant table with grow lights.

“We’ve tried to think of every patient need and ways to fill those needs,” Harden said.  “Once they are on the market, the Med-Homes can be purchased or rented at a much less cost than residency in a long term facility.

“And there is a growing need in our country for long-term care.  By 2020, it is estimated that 12 million older Americans will need long-term care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that people who reach the age of 65 will likely have a 40 percent chance of entering a nursing home. About 10 percent of those will stay there five years or more.”

Harden said the Med-Home that he has designed will make it possible for some people to live independently rather than going into a nursing home. These homes are portable and can be set up in a day’s time on a small lot or on a shared lot.

“The Med-Home is an alternative to a nursing home. It is an opportunity for independent living for many,” he said. “The decreased dependency on others greatly enhances a person’s quality of life and allows them to live with dignity.”