"24/7 job" : Crucible woman works as nurse, domiciliary care provider

Priscilla Shuff poses in her home, where she currently cares for two adults through the Area Agency on Aging’s domiciliary care program. (Photo by Samantha Karam)

Crucible resident Priscilla Shuff’s life revolves around caring for others.

She is a registered nurse and, when she isn’t working, she creates a home for mentally or physically impaired adults. Since July 2018 Shuff has been a certified domiciliary care (dom care) provider for Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Area Agency on Aging.

Through the dom care program, supervisor Cindy Kopanic said, those 18 and over who can’t live alone are provided room and board, personal engagement and a family environment.

“It’s a service that is really needed in the community,” Kopanic said. “(Patients) become immersed in the home.”

Dom care providers must be at least 21 years old and will never have more than three patients in their homes, so patients get individualized attention. They are matched with the best home possible, considering factors like accessibility. In addition to a dom care provider, each patient is assigned a case manager who checks in at least every 6 months.

“We want them to be content and be happy and have their needs met,” Kopanic said.

Each dom care provider has a certified back up staffer who fills in when the primary provider is out of the home. In Shuff’s case, that’s her live-in daughter.

“The goal is to keep them as independent as possible,” Shuff said. “We don’t want to smother them.”

She has been caring for one woman since March and took in another last week, when another dom care provider in the area had a family emergency.

Shuff found the dom care program through an advertisement and pursued it in honor of her late mother, who urged her to go for it.

“I always thought if I had a career it would be in helping others,” Shuff said. “We take so much for granted and certain individuals don’t have that. What better way to enjoy life than to watch their aspects of it.”

According to Kopanic, the dom care program currently has 45 certified providers across Greene, Fayette and Washington counties, but only three in Greene. In addition to Shuff in Crucible, there are dom care providers in Clarksville and Greensboro.

“We’ve always had the fewest dom care homes in Greene County,” Kopanic said. “It has been a challenge to find dom care providers, and we are always looking for new providers.”

According to a dom care pamphlet, all dom care homes are certified by the Area Agency on Aging to meet the required fire, health and local zoning standards. Dom care providers must complete an application process, which includes criminal and financial background checks, to be certified.

“We want to be able to offer this program to all our counties,” Kopanic said. “If we can help them, my motto is we will.”

Shuff calls caregiving a “24/7 job,” but plans to do it as long as she can.

“I’m not a quitter,” she said with a laugh. “Some days are hard, some days are easy, but the joyful parts outweigh the hard ones.”

The Area Agency on Aging is always accepting dom care patient referrals and provider applications. To make a referral or learn more about becoming a dom care provider, call 724-489-8083 ext. 4612 or 4617, or call 1-800-411-5655.

Area Agency on Aging is an affiliate of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services Inc. The Domiciliary Care Program is funded through a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

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