May 1, 2013

Helping seniors age in place

LAKE PLACID — Six years ago, the Sisters of Mercy were at a crossroads to end or renew their mission in the Adirondacks.

The religious congregation’s decision to examine the real needs of Tri-Lakes communities was a throwback move to its founder, Catherine McAuley, who did the same in 19th century Ireland.

“They first came to the Adirondacks in 1895 to establish Sanitarium Gabriels to treat tubercular patients,” said Donna Beal, executive director for Mercy Care for the Adirondacks.

Later, the Sisters of Mercy established Mercy General Hospital in Tupper Lake, which later became Mercy Healthcare Center, a long-term skilled-nursing facility, and Uihlein Mercy Center in Lake Placid, also a skilled-nursing facility. 

Ownership of both facilities was transferred to Adirondack Medical Center.

“The Sisters of Mercy, along with some of the board members of the foundation that previously helped to support the skilled-nursing facilities, went into the community to see if there was a need that was unmet. From those we talked with, the most compelling need was to relieve isolation and loneliness of elders living in their own homes,” Beal said.

Mercy Care of the Adirondacks was established in 2007. Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, its mission is “to enhance the fullness of life of elders living in their community.”

With a new mission, Mercy Care established three interrelated strategies: direct service for elders, community empowerment, and education and advocacy.

A Friendship Volunteer program is one of the initiatives providing direct service to elders.

“Friendship volunteers and parish nurses assist elders living in their own homes with informal support to help them to age in place more successfully,” Beal said. “Right now, Mercy Care has trained more than 90 friendship volunteers since 2008. Nearly 100 volunteers and parish nurses serve more than 70 elders in the Tri-Lakes community.”

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