Finding Health and Wellness at Paul’s Place

May 3rd, 2016

Mike starts each day by taking a deep breath then exhaling for as long and hard as he can into a peak flow meter, a hand-held device that measures how air flows from his lungs. He records the score in his daily log and then opens that day’s section of his pill box to take his medications for heart and pulmonary disorders and high blood pressure. These important measures to manage his health conditions have now become almost routine for Mike, with guidance from the nurses at Paul’s Place.

At 59 years old, Mike has multiple health conditions and needs to coordinate medical care with his primary care physician and five specialists – not an easy task for anyone, but more difficult for Mike because of his learning disability and trouble reading. Lisa, his friend and medical advocate, goes with him to all of his appointments and takes notes, but does not understand the medical terminology well enough to be Mike’s only resource. Fortunately, Mike found our Nurses’ Clinic when his brother-in-law brought him here for Hot Lunch two years ago.

On his first visit to the Nurses’ Clinic, Mike reported a pain in his leg that had gone undiagnosed after several visits to his primary care physician. Kelly, our Director of Health and Wellness, helped Mike get a referral to the hospital for additional testing; the tests uncovered a vein that was closed, causing poor circulation in his lower leg and stressing his heart. Mike had by-pass surgery on his leg, and when he recovered, he began coming to the Nurses’ Clinic every Wednesday for medical case management.

Each week in our Nurses’ Clinic, Mike gets a basic health check-up, including a blood pressure test, and help navigating the complexities of his medical care. Kelly, Barbara – an instructor from the University of Maryland, School of Nursing – and the nursing students help Mike keep up with his doctor’s appointments, interpret the notes Lisa takes during the appointments, ensure his doctors are communicating with each other, coordinate claims to Medicare and Medicaid, and explain the steps he needs to take to stay healthy. For example, Kelly taught Mike how to use his inhaler and peak flow meter properly. She also took pictures of all his medications and showed him how to correctly refill his pill box on his own each week.

The Nurses’ Clinic is not Mike’s only connection to Paul’s Place. He also takes full advantage of our health and wellness programs, participating in nutrition classes, walking club, art therapy classes, and the smoking cessation program. He joined our Ambassador volunteer program two years ago, and every day, he greeted guests, gave out lunch tickets, or worked the lunch line – and was proud to be giving back to Paul’s Place and the community. He recently graduated from the Ambassador program, but continues to volunteer every day through the Catholic Charities’ Senior Community Service Employment Program. He now helps with building maintenance and with our after-school programs for elementary students. And, with help from Travis, our STABLE Home Case Manager, Mike just signed a lease on a safe, affordable apartment close to Paul’s Place.

Mike is healthier, happier, and more independent because of the support he gets from Paul’s Place. He is not alone: last year, 553 guests visited our Nursing Clinic, and 70% of patients were connected to a primary care provider for consistent and coordinated care. Also last year, 549 guests received one-on-one case management coaching at Paul’s Place, and a full 91% reported an increase in their personal self-sufficiency.