High-quality care

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By By LYDIA GRIMES – features writer
Home Health Care Month could not be celebrated during the month of November if not for people like Gwen Puryear. She has been working with caregivers for about 13 years, although she came to them as temporary secretarial help in 1993.
She later became the business administrative assistant and preceptor for the nurses at Vanguard Home Health Care, which has 104 locations, including the one in Brewton.
Puryear then moved up to branch manager, where she oversees all daily operations, such as employment and payroll.
Those who rely on the home health caregivers are the ones who benefit from all the hard work they do.
Doctors and hospitals refer patients, and certified nursing assistants go into their homes to give them special care. It not only is a benefit to the patients but it is also a big help to their family members, Puryear said.
Patients would always prefer to stay in their own homes when they become ill, and home care allows them to do that in many instances, she said. The CNA will bathe the patient, take vital statistics, straighten the area and do anything else they can. Many of those hired by home health care providers often do others things as well, such as laundry and meals.
Home health care providers also provide information to doctors and the proper authorities. It is their responsibility to make sure the health of the patient is paramount and sometimes that means the Department of Human Resources has to be involved.
Vanguard has 15 full-time workers, which include nurses, CNAs, therapists and social workers.
Vanguard employees make 50 to 60 visits every day, Puryear said.
Puryear was born and raised in Brewton in a family of six children. She attended the city schools and graduated from T.R. Miller High School in 1977. She grew up a tomboy, playing with her four brothers. She said she was encouraged by her parents to do her best in school and she always made decent grades.
After graduation from high school, she attended and graduated from Jefferson Davis Community College. She graduated in 1979 with an associate's degree in secretarial science. She then transferred to Troy State University where she became a business major. She graduated from Troy in 1981 with a degree in business administration. She also attended night classes at Escambia Brewton Area Vocational Center.
She came back to Brewton after she finished college and went to look for a job. She found that her biggest problem was that she had no experience. She finally went to the employment office to facilitate jobs for those who were looking for work.
Later, when she was once again unemployed, she got a call from Betty Clark that the secretary at Vanguard was going on maternity leave and they were looking for a temporary replacement. She got the job and has been there ever since.
Puryear was married in 1990 to Thomas Puryear who is a correctional officer at Holman Prison. She has five children whose ages range from 12 to 19. During the years they were growing up, she, like many of her peers, not only worked outside the home but also was required to put in many hours inside the home.
The children, Nick, Miah, Claire, Jamal and Telvin have gotten older now and are able to take some of the work off of her.
She is an active member of First Saint Siloam Missionary Baptist Church on Sowell Road, and sings in the choir.
She also loves to work in her flower beds when she gets the time.

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