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Supportive services help seniors maintain their own homes

Posted on 27 October 2017 by Calvin

The Living at Home Block Nurse Program of Como Park and Falcon Heights may have a complicated name, but their mission is simple: to provide high quality, affordable care for seniors—allowing them to live safely in the home and community they love.

According to executive director Lisa Kane, “Every staff person and volunteer here is committed to these principles.” A former Wisconsin Department of Health program manager, Kane said that, “like most people who work with our program, I live in the neighborhood. I’m lucky to have found this opportunity; this is good work.”

Photo left: The fulltime staff of the Living at Home Block Nurse program in Como Park and Falcon Heights is made up of volunteer coordinator Jennifer Grilliot (left), executive director Lisa Kane (center), and RN Maria Duwenhoegger (right). (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

What exactly is the good work of the Living at Home Block Nurse Program (LAHBNP)? They offer a wealth of services to neighborhood residents aged 65 and better, as they like to say. Free services provided by staff include home safety checks, service coordination, blood pressure monitoring, and help with applications to other social service benefit programs.

Maria Duwenhoegger is the registered nurse on staff—something that not all Living at Home Block Nurse Programs have. She said, “I enjoy the one-on-one connection with our seniors, working with them in their own environment rather than in a clinic setting. I get a better sense for what their family support is, or their lack of family support.”

Duwenhoegger provides skilled nursing services for people covered by Medicare, Medical Assistance, or private insurance. One of the services in high demand is non-diabetic foot care, a self-supporting program that costs $35 per visit. “I have over 20 of these clients,” she said. ‘Most of them say when they call us the first time, ‘I never thought I would need this!’”

Sometimes the first call to LAHBNP can be hard to make, but Kane explained, “We’re here to help. We’re not here to do anything other than support the community. We welcome phone calls from seniors, family members, or neighbors—anyone with a concern about an older person.” She emphasized that all staff and volunteers have passed a rigorous screening process.

Jennifer Grilliot is the volunteer coordinator, managing a small but dedicated band of long-term volunteers aged 20–81. “One of the things that’s very satisfying about being a volunteer coordinator,” she said, “is when you put two complete strangers together, and find that they’ve formed a strong connection. I matched an MBA student from China last year with one of our seniors. It turned out that the senior had traveled to China several times in her life, and the two of them really hit it off. The student volunteered because elders are so important in Chinese culture, and he wanted to experience some of that here. At LAHBNP, we believe that the intergenerational connection really helps to stabilize neighborhoods.”

Volunteers with this organization serve in a variety of ways like gardening, raking leaves, shoveling snow, driving seniors to medical appointments and back, or to the grocery store or library. Also, friendly visits are an important part of volunteer services. Grilliot said, “Many of our clients are homebound, and that can be very socially isolating.”

Grilliot is currently looking for volunteers with a fitness background to lead gentle exercise classes at two senior independent living complexes in the neighborhood. She also offers training to volunteers willing to work with seniors one-on-one, using a training module called “Healthy Moves for Aging Well.” No previous fitness experience is required for this commitment.

LAHBNP added a homemaking program three years ago, in response to neighborhood need. The cost for this service is $25/hour, with a minimum of one hour’s time. Services include vacuuming, dusting, deep cleaning of kitchens and bathrooms, doing laundry, changing bed linens, preparing snacks and meals, and more.

There are ten Living at Home Block Nurse programs across St. Paul; their shared goal is to keep elders healthy, independent, and connected to their community. Kane explained that each of the programs is a free-standing, nonprofit organization with its own board. Most of the programs are housed in community spaces, and LAHBNP is no exception.

Located at 1376 Hoyt Ave. in Como Park Lutheran Church, the staff can be reached at 651-642-1127 or comobnp@mtn.org with questions about services for seniors and their caregivers, or about volunteering.

On Sat., Oct. 14, Como Park Lutheran Church will hold a bazaar with a silent auction and meatloaf dinner, with all proceeds going to LAHBNP.


“We had a couple in the neighborhood a few years ago. The husband was caring for his wife, who had pretty advanced dementia. We provided homemaking services like cleaning and decluttering, got Meals on Wheels going, and found some social support for the husband in the form of a male friend who took him out to lunch every few weeks. The husband learned in his late 70’s how to clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, and all the other stuff that goes into maintaining a home. He continued caregiving for a couple of years after we got involved. Our in-home services allowed him more free time to visit his wife in the nursing home, once she moved there. After his wife passed away, he continued to live independently for quite some time.”
—Maria Duwenhoegger, RN