By Jason DeMoe
For 30 years, the Como Park Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program has helped countless seniors stay in their own homes while giving their caregivers a helping hand.
“Block nurse programs speak to the idea that communities can organize to help older adults stay in their homes,” Living at Home Network executive director Mary Quirk said. “These programs stimulate caring for older adults. In all of the 32 neighborhoods that we work with, including Como Park and Falcon Heights, there are people who have banded together to say we want to do more.”
Lisa Kane is the executive director of the Como Park Falcon Heights program.
“We offer many services at no cost such as transportation to medical appointments, respite care, companion care, help with chores and nursing outreach visits,” she said. “Also, we offer some services at an affordable cost, including nondiabetic foot care, housekeeping and home health-care arrangement.”
Although seniors are the ones who benefit most from the block nurse program, caregivers are also able to take advantage of the extra assistance.
“Caregiver support is actually a big part of what we do,” Kane said. “Whether it is a spouse or an adult child or even a caring neighbor who is taking care of a senior, we offer a variety of services to give people a break.”
For services to be provided, however, a team of volunteers is needed. Maria Duwenhoegger, a registered nurse with the block nurse program, said that with the baby-boomer generation coming into their 70s there is a big awareness of an incoming increase for need. Kane said that volunteers of all ages who are willing to commit to a wide variety of amounts of time are all needed.
“There is no minimum number of volunteer hours that we require,” she said. “There are plenty of opportunities available. Some people are willing to provide rides to food shelves twice a month, others provide companionship over coffee once a month, and some provide help on a weekly basis. No matter how much time someone has, if they want to volunteer, we can find something for them.”
Kane also said that her volunteer coordinator does an excellent job of matching potential volunteers with seniors who share matching interests.
“We recently had a German-speaking senior and we found a volunteer who also spoke the language,” she said. “Things like that are what make our program so special to these people that we serve.”
Interested volunteers can contact bloc- program volunteer coordinator Jennifer Grilliot at 651-642-1127.
The block nurse program is funded with county, state and federal dollars, as well as a generous grant from the Stevens Square Foundation.
“One other important funding source for us is community donations,” Kane said. “We feel really lucky that people feel moved to contribute to the work we do. People give in all dollar amounts, large and small, and it really is amazing how much community support we are blessed with.”
To donate to the program go to www.comobnp.org or mail a check to Como Park Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program, 1376 Hoyt Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.
The Como Park Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program hosts a family friendly walk/run event the third weekend in July. Teams can walk to raise money to support the program. Kane would love to see neighborhood groups form teams, she said. More information about the walk/run will be available closer to the event date at www.comobnp.org.
Jason DeMoe works as a news reporter in Forest Lake. In his off time, he enjoys the outdoors and occasionally writing for the Bugle.