The AKH Foundation’s Community Nurse Program has helped more than 500 people since its beginning a few years ago. The program’s two part-time nurses work approximately 10-hours each per week. Unlike traditional nurses who provide direct treatment, the Foundation’s “Community Nurses” are tasked with providing advice to clients and to assist them by identifying valuable community resources.
According to Eileen Jones, RN, BSHA, CCM, FCN, “So many people need pointed in the right direction because they don’t know where to turn to for help with their health issues. Whether it’s not understanding veteran’s benefits, nursing home placement levels or costs, or even a medical diagnosis, we find that, until confronted with a situation with them or a family member, people just are not aware of the help that is out there.”
Community nurse partner Sue Rykaczewski, RN, FCN, added, “There are rarely single issues with the clients that we see. There are always complications, sometimes involving multiple health issues, sometimes involving living arrangements, oftentimes involving lack of resources. For example, we recently helped an elderly gentleman who suffered from untreated diabetes, he did not have affordable transportation for trips to the grocery store, he never took the time to get his legal documents in order, and on top of all of that, he had several pets that prevented him from being accepted into a senior citizen subsidized apartment.”
High on the list of needs are the myriad of issues related to in-home services for the elderly. Lack of transportation to and from physician offices and hospitals, safety issues such as steps and other impediments to moving around the home, and affordability of home care helpers, are all areas where the community nurses are great resources. “This is especially true for those who live just above the income threshold for Medical Assistance,” added Jones.
Another area where the community nurses see a huge need for help is with people understanding their health insurance. All insurance plans are different with varying levels of coverage, copays and deductibles, costs and networks. Medicare can also be very confusing and difficult to fully comprehend. There are Medicare Parts A, B, C & D, Medigap, Medicare Advantage, etc. Compounding the understanding further are the confusing issues of hospital billing codes.
Other issues that the community nurses regularly address include nursing home placement, various diseases, dental issues and depression.
Many of the clients are counseled by telephone. Some schedule appointments to discuss their situations with the nurses at the Foundation offices. Other clients receive counseling at senior citizen high rises or other facilities where the community nurses provide regular programs to the residents. While the nurses have a growing number of presentations ready at any given time, including titles such as Advocacy, Habits & Health, Stress, Medications & Immunizations, Nutrition & Food Safety, and Diabetes, they are available to discuss customized programs to suit specific audiences.
In addition to the Community Nurse Program, the Foundation has a related program, the Community Mental Health Program. AKH Foundation President, John Pastorek explained, “The Community Mental Health Program works in a similar way to the Community Nurse Program. Our Mental Health Nurse, Kim Drury, RN, MSN, doesn’t provide treatment, but helps individuals locate resources needed to deal with their mental health needs.” If you know of someone in need of health counseling, please phone the AKH Foundation Community Nurse Program at (724) 294-3157.