Offering Peace of Mind and a Place to Stay
Shepherd Center’s Delores Ann and Goodloe Yancey Family Housing Program is a donor funded program that provides families of newly injured patients who qualify 30 days of complimentary housing.
In September 2019, 16-year-old JJ Hodge sustained an incomplete C-5 to -6 spinal cord injury (SCI) when he was run over by a car. After he transferred from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist near his home in North Carolina to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation in November, his family faced a three-month stay in Atlanta.
One of the concerns JJ’s mom, Beth Hodge, did not have to worry about was where her family would stay while JJ was at Shepherd Center. She was able to be with her son in his room, and when her husband and two daughters traveled from Greensboro, North Carolina, to visit on the weekends, they could stay at no charge in the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center located adjacent to the hospital on Shepherd Center’s campus.
“Because we had a place to stay, we could all be together on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Beth says, noting that JJ was at Shepherd Center from November 6, 2019, until February 13, 2020. “It was such a relief, and it was so convenient. It also provided JJ with a level of comfort, knowing that we were there.”
The Woodruff Family Residence Center has 84 fully furnished wheelchair-accessible apartments.
“Housing is one of the biggest concerns for families when they are choosing a rehabilitation center,” says Victoria Denson, Shepherd Center’s housing manager. “They wonder where they are going to stay and how they are going to pay for it. By offering 30 days of complimentary housing to families of newly injured patients, we can ease that concern.”
The other advantage to family housing is easy access to the caregiver education program, which combines classroom training, demonstrations and hands-on practice. If families are staying at Shepherd Center (or live close by), they can participate in training over time, which can be helpful. Caregivers have an opportunity to practice what they learn while at the hospital and ask questions of the staff.
“Caregiving training helps ensure a safe transition back to home and prevents complications down the road that could lead to rehospitalization,” says Diane Johnston, MSPT, Shepherd Center’s director of professional education. “Shepherd Center has the highest rate of returning patients to home over other rehabilitation facilities, and training caregivers is key to that success. Having families on-site helps prepare patients and families for a successful transition home.”
To Beth, that caregiver training and being with JJ was invaluable.
“To be able to be there and learn how to do things ‘real time’ was so helpful,” she says. “If I didn’t understand something, I could just ask the nurse right then. You don’t know what you don’t know until you try and do it yourself.”
In May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Shepherd Center to temporarily close the hospital to visitors and limit family members to one person who stayed with the patient in their room. Families could still stay in the Residence Center to be nearby and visit patients in the Anna and Hays Mershon Secret Garden, as well as stay with patients participating in the outpatient SCI Day Program.
Beth and JJ returned to Shepherd Center in August 2021 so JJ could resume his rehabilitation in the Day Program. They both stayed in the Woodruff Family Residence Center. JJ went into the hospital every day for therapy, but because of pandemic restrictions, Beth could only go over once a day to have lunch with JJ in the cafeteria. She says staying in the apartment was also good for JJ’s independence.
“He got up and got ready himself, opened up the door, and off he went,” Beth says. “He was able to go to the Center and his therapy sessions by himself.”
On October 5, 2021, Shepherd Center reopened housing to more family members and allowed access to the hospital.
“We are happy to be able to once again offer this program to our families,” Denson says. “It’s such an incredible gift. It helps in the healing process for both families and patients.”
Beth Hodge agrees completely.
“Aside from the excellent care that Shepherd Center is known for, the second-best thing is the family housing,” she says. “It is the cherry on top.”
Now back home in North Carolina, JJ is continuing with physical and occupational therapy, finishing up some online classes and working on getting his driver’s license. His mother says he is looking forward to returning again to the Shepherd Center Day Program.
ABOUT SHEPHERD CENTER'S DELORES ANN AND GOODLOE YANCEY FAMILY HOUSING PROGRAM
Shepherd Center’s Delores Ann and Goodloe Yancey Family Housing Program is entirely donor-funded. In order to qualify for housing, both the patient and family/ caregiver must live more than 60 miles from the Center. For inpatient stays, they are allowed 30 days of housing at no financial cost, and those days do not have to be used consecutively. Patients in the Shepherd Pathways outpatient program are provided up to eight weeks of housing and Day Program participants are given six to eight weeks. This is in addition to their initial 30-day inpatient stay. Learn more at shepherd.org/housing.
Written by Sara Baxter
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.