|Known for Award Winning Innovations on the Farm|
Jerrell Harden Applies His Skills to Needs of the Disabled and Elderly
Over his farming career, Jerrell Harden of the Shiloh Community in Pike County has been named "Progressive Farmer" magazine’s "Man of the Year." He was designated as the Most Innovative Farmer in the South by "Farm Journal" magazine and he received the Conservation Tillage Pioneer Farmer Award by the Soil and Conservation Society of Alabama.
In addition, while farming with his dad, the late J.C. Harden; his brother, Leo; and his son, Russell; the Harden farm was given credit for making no-till farming feasible in the Southeast and received the National No-Till Farmer of the Year award. The Harden farm was also recognized as the "Father of Strip-Till" at the Southeastern Conservation Tillage Conference.
The Hardens invented several farming implements that have greatly improved farming methods and positively impacted row crop farming. They have 13 patents and have sold 12 to eight companies in six states.
But the best thing Harden has ever done and the most important thing, he saved to do until he was 78 years old.
A shy but proud smile spreads across Harden’s face as he ushers visitors to the "nursing home at home" that he designed and built.
"The Mobile Med-Home is an alternative to the nursing home," Harden said. "And it is the most important thing I have ever done because I can’t think of anything more needed and will be more appreciated."
Just as Harden saw needs on the farm and worked to find ways to meet those needs, so has he worked to meet the needs of the elderly and the handicapped.
"People don’t want to have to leave home because they are elderly or disabled," Harden said. "But, if they can’t take care of themselves, most of the time, they can’t stay home. I wanted to find a way for them to be able to take care of themselves and stay home where they want to be."
Harden’s parents lived to be in their late 90s and he built equipment to help them be mobile. When his wife’s mother, age 98, moved in with them following hip surgery, he turned his attention and efforts to finding ways to make her life easier and more comfortable.
If used in combination, Harden realized the equipment he had designed for his family members could offer independence to many in the elderly and handicapped populations.
The more he thought about the idea, the more feasible it became.
"I had designed and built the individual pieces of equipment. It was just a matter of putting them all together under one roof," Harden explained. "Once I did that, a person could live independently rather than going to a nursing home. The Med-Home would be a welcomed alternative to the nursing home for many."
Harden started on the project three years ago. With the help of his son, Russell, he built all of the equipment for the Med-Home. The home structure was designed by Harden, but built by a contractor. Harden built and installed all of the equipment himself. The home is climate-controlled with a heat pump and air conditioning unit.
The bed is the focal point of the home. Everything "revolves" around it. On the right side of the bed is a revolving, recliner-type chair that Harden calls a Med-Chair.
"The chair is on a circular platform with safety arms extending over the bed," Harden said. "The safety arms allow the patent to get in and out of bed, and into the Med-Chair without assistance. The chair rotates so the patient is within reach of everything in the kitchen area – the oven, microwave, refrigerator, sink, dishwasher and pantry. The cabinets have turntables so all the items can be easily accessed. The storage drawers are designed where everything can be reached from the Med-Chair."
The chair also gives the patient access to the work area with shelves, electrical outlets, a retractable meal tray and a fold-in laptop tray. A grab-bar allows the patient to reach items on the upper shelves.
"The television is mounted on the wall and can be viewed from the bed and the kitchen/recreation area," Harden added. "The Med-Chair has an extendable exercise and safety bar which gives the patient the option of limited mobility without the fear of falling."
On the left side of the bed are the restroom facilities including a lavatory, medicine cabinet and a specially designed shower stall with a pivoting seat to transport the patient from the wheelchair in and out of the shower.
"This equipment allows a patient the opportunity to bathe themselves," Harden continued. "Elderly people get really cold, so the shower is equipped with a heat lamp to make bathing comfortable and enjoyable. The shower also features a protective curtain that keeps water from splattering on the floor and on an aide who is helping a patient with a bath if necessary. I’ve tried to think of everything for the convenience and comfort of the patient."
Also on the left side of the bed is the combination washer-dryer combination allowing the patient to do laundry.
"There’s a hoist that assists the patient with getting out of bed into the specially-designed wheelchair with safety bars preventing a patient from falling out of the chair," Harden said. "The home’s access ramp has a self-guided wheelchair ramp to make coming in and out of the Med-Home safe and easy. The home also has a portable plant table with grow lights and a seating area for guests.
"The Med-Home has all of the conveniences of home. For those who want an alternative to the nursing home for themselves or for a loved one, the Med-Home offers them independent living."
Harden said there is a growing need in the United States for long-term care.
"It has been estimated, by 2020, 12 million Americans will need long-term care," he said. "According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people who reach the age of 65 will have a 40 percent chance of entering a nursing home. The Med-Home will be an alternative for many of them."
Harden hopes a company will manufacture the Mobile Med-Home and offer it for sale or for rent.
"I’ve seen how much our loved ones have appreciated being able to stay home," he concluded. "The Med-Home will make it possible for more people to live independently and that’s a real blessing. That’s why I say the Med-Home is the most important thing I have ever done."
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.