By David Karas | Correspondent
A smile came to the face of Grace Bolge, 97, as Corinne Janoska stepped into her living room and set down a bag of groceries and her supply bag.
“She makes my day when she comes,” said Bolge.
Janoska is the director of the Home Health Nursing Program at the Mount Carmel Guild of Trenton, a diocesan nonprofit agency that provides a wide variety of services to those most in need in the Mercer County area. Bolge, a Hamilton resident, is one of 50 clients receiving in-home nursing visits through the program.
“Basically, it is a very cost-effective program that helps keep medically frail, economically disadvantaged seniors in their homes as long as possible, and it prevents premature admission into a nursing home,” said Marie Gladney, executive director of the Guild. “It lets them age in place with a little dignity and the respect that they so richly deserve.”
The program is comprised of Janoska, a registered nurse, and a second licensed practical nurse. In-home visits include everything from blood pressure checks to pre-filling pill containers, checking blood sugar to calling in prescriptions to doctors, and dropping off food. The nurses also assess patients’ homes for safety issues, pre-fill insulin injections and monitor vital signs, and provide any other forms of support their clients need.
But what seems to help their clients the most is the personal nature of the in-home visits, and the consistency of having the same nurse visit a particular patient.
Janoska explained that after being released from a hospital or care program, seniors are provided with Medicare-funded nursing visits for six weeks before they are left to take care of themselves. Without the Guild’s program, many of the clients would be left without any assistance during a critical recovery time.
Many similar programs require patients to go to a care center for a day to receive the same services and check-ups, said Janoska, though many are not able to leave their homes easily or would prefer to stay at home.
“Most of our people do not want to be out for the day,” she said. “They want to be home.”
The service provided by the Guild is free, though many clients donate to the agency to support its mission.
Grace Bolge has not let her age get to her.
A Hamilton teacher for 39 years and an adjunct professor at Mercer County Community College for 18 years, she has been part of the local community for a good portion of her life.
And for those who were wondering, she is on Facebook.
“It’s a kooky thing,” she said of the social media site. “I don’t do much on Facebook; I don’t want all of those friends.” Still, having taught U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Samuel Alito, she surely has plenty of acquaintances.
But when told by her doctor that she had to check her blood pressure once a week, she wasn’t sure what to do. Handheld monitors can be inaccurate, she said, and she is not able to travel to the doctor’s office regularly.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said, “(until) one day I read an article in the paper about Mount Carmel Guild.”
She was fortunate to be able to hire a live-in aide, and with the nursing visits from the Guild, she is able to stay in the home in which she has spent most of her adult life.
“Sixty-six years I have been in this home,” she said. “This is the home where my mother and father moved when they came over from Italy.”
A sense of comfort
For Trenton residents Gary and Victoria Martin, the Guild’s program is a lifeline.
“God is so good to me,” said Victoria, 81, as Janoska walked up the pathway to her home. The couple receives public assistance, but still has a difficult time making ends meet, and so Janoska also brings groceries and vegetables for them on her regular visits.
In fact, things are so difficult that the pair, afraid that their home will be taken away from them, have had to face the reality of selling it.
“All you work for is this,” Victoria said of their quaint home, filled with trinkets and objects representing their life journeys. “This is all we have.”
Holding back tears, she said that they have both worked their whole lives for their home, and the thought of losing it because of a tough economy is simply devastating.
“It hurts,” she said.
For the Martins, Janoska is a ray of light. Their closest family members are in Florida, and cannot assist with transportation for medical appointments. So Janoska is in regular communication with their doctors.
“I think there is a language barrier, so I wind up talking to doctors a lot,” Janoska said.
She originally visited Victoria exclusively, but she soon learned that Gary was not always taking his medications, and she began checking on him as well.
“I like Corinne to come here,” said Gary, 78, smiling. “She is very nice.”
Victoria said that Janoska quickly became part of their family, and she would simply not want to have anyone but her visit them.
“I love her,” she said, giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
And Janoska, who worked with a home care agency prior to joining the Guild, said that she feels equally enriched by her work.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “It really makes you appreciate what you have a lot more.”
The bottom line
Gladney said that the program, part of a collaborative with the United Way, is also fiscally healthy.
Based on an estimated average cost of $87,000 per year for a senior to live in a nursing home, Gladney said that the Guild saves governments and families roughly $4.8 million each year by providing in-home care to its patients.
The Guild’s program runs on a budget of roughly $135,000 each year, less than the average cost of nursing home are for two seniors.
The agency also received funding for expansion into East and West Windsor Townships, along with Hightstown Borough. When two collaborative agencies – Project Connect and Partners in Caring – merged, a small nursing component was left unfulfilled.
“The decision was made that they wanted Mount Carmel Guild to handle all nursing,” said Gladney. “This money will allow me to hire a part-time employee.”
While the new employee would likely work just a few hours each week, Gladney said it will allow others at the Guild’s nursing program to continue with their existing caseload, without taking on new clients.
“It was a very nice thing to happen for us,” she said.