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Taking Care of Their Own

Bradford Group Discusses Ways to Aid Elderly Residents

  • Pat Benjamin, of Bradford, second left, United Methodist Church Rev. Mari Clark, of Bradford, and Cottage Hospital's Linda Aliberti, of Wells River, listen to Dennis McCullough, MD., left, during an "aging in place" community meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program, that could involve hiring a nurse to visit seniors in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Pat Benjamin, of Bradford, second left, United Methodist Church Rev. Mari Clark, of Bradford, and Cottage Hospital's Linda Aliberti, of Wells River, listen to Dennis McCullough, MD., left, during an "aging in place" community meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program, that could involve hiring a nurse to visit seniors in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Community members and religious leaders discuss ways of allowing local elderly residents to live at home longer without sacrificing their health at an "aging in place" meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program that could involve hiring a nurse to visit residents in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Community members and religious leaders discuss ways of allowing local elderly residents to live at home longer without sacrificing their health at an "aging in place" meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program that could involve hiring a nurse to visit residents in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pat Benjamin, of Bradford, second left, United Methodist Church Rev. Mari Clark, of Bradford, and Cottage Hospital's Linda Aliberti, of Wells River, listen to Dennis McCullough, MD., left, during an "aging in place" community meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program, that could involve hiring a nurse to visit seniors in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Community members and religious leaders discuss ways of allowing local elderly residents to live at home longer without sacrificing their health at an "aging in place" meeting at the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt. on Sunday, September 22, 2013. Visiting speakers discussed how to set up a community-run health program that could involve hiring a nurse to visit residents in their homes. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Bradford, Vt. — A discussion on aging and the concept of a community nurse who could help the elderly and their families make important late-life decisions while living at home was well-received at a Bradford community forum Sunday.

Dennis McCullough and Laurie Harding, co-directors of the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project, met with 20 residents of Bradford and nearby towns in the Bradford Congregational United Church of Christ to promote their project.

A community nurse, as McCullough and Harding see it, is a separate entity from hospitals; a problem solver who can provide professional knowledge such as helping to decide what to do about a scar that doesn’t look great one day, or working a family member through the process of scheduling use of the car for someone who has just had a hip replacement.

The idea is to help the elderly age in their own homes, as well as avoid unnecessary hospital visits. A nurse, who would work 10 to 15 hours a week, can “fill some of the gaps,” McCullough said.

It’s a philosophy that goes back to the mid-19th century, when nurses were focused on communities.

“It’s something that probably has been needed for a long time,” said the Rev. Mari Clark, a Bradford resident and pastor of the Grace United Methodist Church . “If we put it out there people will definitely flock to it and support it.”

Currently, said Harding, who is also a Democratic state senator from Lebanon, churches in three Upper Valley towns — Lyme, Hanover and New London — employ part-time “parish nurses” that serve the congregation and community at large. Other towns that hire community nurses, whether directly through a church or not, could be part of the Nursing Project group, she said.

A community nurse doesn’t necessarily have to operate through the town, at least via a line item on the budget, said McCullough, who works at the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging. An independent group, if it finds the capital, could hire the nurse, meaning he or she essentially answers to the community members, not the town itself. Also, he said, a cheaper, small-scale trial operation could let the community see the value of the program before politics come into play.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Rev. Karen Lipinczyk passed around a sign-up sheet seeking four to six people to form a committee and further explore the issue. Six individuals signed up and traded contact information.

But the idea was met with skepticism from Bob Nordham, of Bradford, who wondered during the meeting about the hourly wage of a nurse as well as where that money would come from. McCullough said the nurse is paid $30 an hour and Harding said several thousand dollars would come from the Nursing Project plus sponsorship from companies from which the Bradford committee would solicit.

After the meeting, Nordham said he was positive about the concept, but wary overall.

“How do you measure the need in the first place?” he said.

Overall, though, the mood meeting was one of acceptance, the degree of which surprised Harding.

“They’re really filling a need,” said James Barton, of Bradford, as the discussion was wrapping up.

“We will be your No. 1 cheerleaders,” Harding responded.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.