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Updated: November 27, 2023 / 2023 Champions of Health Care

Champions of Health Care: Njoroge advocates for homecare patients’ entire wellbeing

A photo of Milka Njoroge, administrator and CEO of Century Home Care PHOTO | Courtesy of Century Homecare Milka Njoroge, administrator and CEO of Century Home Care

Milka Njoroge always thought she wanted to be a pharmacist. Having to restart her pharmacology degree after immigrating to the U.S. from Kenya did not put a damper on that goal. Eventually finding a role at UMass Memorial Health in Worcester as a pharmacist in the inpatient cardiovascular unit, Njoroge started to notice recidivism among the patients she provided medication to.

“Patients would come in and out. They would come in, get discharged, and within a week would be back,” said Njoroge.

From her perspective, the issue preventing patients from having adequate recovery out of the hospital included a lack of medication continuity and no follow up with doctors. Patients would leave the hospital and once back at home, would stop taking their medications, would stop refilling their prescriptions, and would fall out of touch with their providers. Njoroge believed the issues stemmed from patients not learning how to manage their condition at home.

Milka Njoroge bio box
Milka Njoroge bio box

The need was most stark among those who confronted challenges to care like low socioeconomic status, language barriers, and immigration status.

“Being an immigrant myself, I thought there was a need here, and thought, ‘Maybe I can meet that need,’” she said.

Meeting that need is what Njoroge had done with Century Homecare in Worcester, which Njoroge co-founded in 2012 and now runs as administrator and CEO.

A lot has changed in the home care industry since then, Njoroge said, especially in the years of the coronavirus pandemic and since, which brought the importance of homecare to the forefront.

“There has always been a huge need for homecare, but the pandemic highlighted the role homecare plays and the impact that providing care in the home has,” she said.

Demand for in-home services increased dramatically throughout the pandemic, while it simultaneously became more difficult to staff a homecare business, Njoroge said.

Century Homecare sets itself apart from others in the business by being nimble and adaptable, said Kim Bellil, vice president of operations at Homecare GPS in Worcester, which provides electronic medical record software to Century and has the business as a client.

“There is change after change after change thrust upon these agencies. I know it's challenging for every single agency to figure out how to respond and maintain their goals and profit to sustain themselves. I see them time and time again, adapting to the changes thrust upon them,” said Bellil.

Being in the homecare industry, Njoroge said she and her staff see firsthand what patients are dealing with holistically, and what barriers individuals may be facing. If a nurse goes to assist a patient in administering insulin, they can see if the patient may be dealing with food insecurity. If a clinician goes to someone’s home to follow up with wound care but finds the patient is living without heat in their house, they know there is more to address than just the medical concern, said Njoroge.

“We can see that directly because we are in people’s homes,” she said.

Part of Njoroge’s work involves advocating for resources for homecare institutions, staff, and patients, and she does that by highlighting the role home health care plays in the overall healthcare system.

“It's not a by-the-way; it’s a core service, and we should have resources. If patients can be safe at home, it saves the system money,” said Njoroge.

A majority of patients Century Homecare serves are MassHealth eligible, Njoroge said. She is an active participant in stakeholder meetings to advocate for the needs her more than 100 employees see on a daily basis.

“If I'm at the table, I want to make sure the voices of those directly impacted and offering care are heard,” she said.

It’s one way the agency’s care for patients comes through, said Bellil, who sits on stakeholder calls.

“There’s a handful of voices. She is one of them advocating for patients,” said Bellil. “They’re in the right business.”

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