In the last few years of my mother’s life, when she was suffering from myriad chronic conditions that had greatly decreased her mobility, my entire family – but especially my mother, the patient – was thankful for the convenience and reassurance of having a weekly visit from an Registered Nurse, Annie. After my father passed away and my mother was home alone all day, it was especially nice to know that someone whose company she truly enjoyed and appreciated, who had knowledge of her “ailments,” as she called them, would be evaluating her regularly for those small changes that can signal major problems in the elderly. It was, in fact, Annie who called my brother at work in alarm one frigid February morning, quite concerned that she had arrived at my mother’s house to find the door locked and no one answering the phone. Annie offered to call 911 and wait at the house until emergency services and my brother arrived. Sadly, my mother had passed away in her sleep a few hours earlier. But it seemed fitting and comforting to my brother and me that Annie, whom she trusted and, I’m certain, loved, had been there to cushion the fall for us.
Visiting nurses have been providing home health care and more to patients for over 100 years through various agencies and organizations. The Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) was established in 1983 as the official national association for non-profit, community-based Visiting Nurse Agencies, who care for and treat approximately four million patients each year. The nation’s network of more than 400 Visiting Nurse Associations share a nonprofit mission to provide cost-effective and compassionate home healthcare to some of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The VNAA offers a wide range of resources about home healthcare and questions to ask when considering home healthcare.
Visiting Nurse Associations (VNAs) care for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, offering comprehensive services such as post-partum and infant wellness programs to hospice care. Patients can receive skilled nursing care, rehabilitation therapy, social services/counseling and other professional attention as needed. Many VNAs also offer help with housekeeping, transportation, personal care and delivery and set-up of medical equipment. And in addition to individualized, at-home care, VNAs play an important role in the community, organizing immunization clinics and support groups and running wellness programs in schools and senior centers.
Both in their involvement with patients at home and their work with the public, Visiting Nurses play a role in improving quality of life for everyone with whom they interact. Annie told me about the bond she felt not only with my mother, but with all the patients she works with and cares for, short-term or long-term, recovering from minor surgery or terminally ill. She truly made a difference to my family and visiting nurses make a difference in society.