The Bethel Visiting Nurses Association is well known for helping residents recover in their home after surgery, but sometimes the tables turn, and people who received care from the VNA come back to become volunteers. Just ask Florence Murphy, who suffered a severed foot in a car accident. “My foot was attached by a single blood vessel,” she said about the accident that occurred three years ago.
Murphy stayed in the hospital but was sent home as soon as she was barely able to walk. Since she lived alone and had to climb stairs everyday, she was very concerned about having an accident while alone in her home.
Murphy credits regaining her confidence to heal with the services the VNA provided to her. “I was very nervous about going home, but they were just so caring and compassionate. They made me feel like I could do it. They were just so kind.”
The VNA's mission statement has always been to serve the well being of the community in their homes, but as the decades have flown by, Patricia Smithwick, community liaison, and Judy Malin, nurse and executive director, said that the VNA has more to offer people than ever before.
With the Baby Boomer population is aging and more and more people are out of work or are lacking health insurance, “That net is widening. Even for people who have health insurance; for many it doesn't provide for home care,” Smithwick said. An upcoming breakfast fundraiser will raise funds to care for people even in those circumstances.
“Our job is to keep people living on their own,” Malin said, noting that the VNA now can provide services that used to be only be available in intensive care. “We do intravenous feeding, ventilators, and we now have a dietician.”
The list of services the VNA offers is long, and includes blood pressure monitoring and physical, occupational and speech therapists. “We also have telehealth monitors,” Malin said, explaining that the monitors can perform many functions including monitoring blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. The machines automatically relay information from the patient's home back to the VNA.
Smithwick also added, “We do health fairs, clinics, blood pressure screenings, and Newtown and Bethel flu clinics.”
Besides helping others, there are also benefits to those who work at the VNA, Smithwick said. “I like the idea of helping people and keeping them well.” Smithwick ran her own business for 13 years and she spent several years on the Board of the VNA, but has been an employee for the last three years.
“We have volunteers who help in the office, but some call on people, pay a visit, even have a cup of tea with people who can't get out,” Smithwick said.
The Visiting Nurse Association celebrated their 85th anniversary on March 4, and their annual breakfast is coming up in April. According to Malin, the organization has come a long way in 85 years. Besides Bethel, the group is able to serve many of the towns in Western Connecticut.
One of their main goals is getting the word out that they are ready and available to help local residents. “We are referred by doctors, but there are a lot of Visiting Nurses organizations, and they are not all connected. We want people to know ahead of time that we are right here in Bethel,” Malin said. “Home care is the most cost efficient way to recuperate in a comfortable environment.”
The upcoming breakfast will feature speaker Dr. John Murphy, CEO of Danbury Hospital, which has recently joined forces with New Milford Hospital. “He's readying Danbury's and New Milford Hospitals for a future that could include the overhaul of the nation's health care system, thanks to reforms pushed by President Barrack Obama and passed by the U.S. Congress,” read a statement issued by those hospitals.
The Breakfast For Care is on April 27, at the Ethan Allen Inn, 25 Lake Avenue, Danbury, 7:30 am until 9:00 a.m. It is sponsored by the Union Savings Bank.