Stamping Out Isolation
D. Beal, Sr. Camillus, S. Schneck & Sr. Catherine of Mercy Care.
By matching volunteer caregivers with elderly residents seeking friends, Mercy Care for the Adirondacks is relieving loneliness wherever they find it. At a higher elevation, Mercy Care employs education and advocacy to facilitate aging in place right here, so we all won’t have to move to Florida.
Mercy Care is a mission of the Sisters of Mercy, a convent that has been putting “love into action” in the Adirondacks since 1895 — starting with their founding of the Gabriels Sanitorium for tuberculosis patients. Since 2007, the sisters have dedicated themselves to the community need their research shows is greatest: enhancing the fullness of life for senior citizens.
Gently and lovingly, the Sisters of Mercy want to catalyze change in our behavior. The percentage of the elderly in the Adirondack population is increasing faster than in the rest of New York. Of the aging people surveyed in the Tri-Lakes area, 90 percent want to stay home, not move to an institution. Budget cuts mean fewer beds in long-term care facilities. Mercy Care is here to help communities adapt by creating in-home services for older people.
Through its Aging in Place/Livable Communities initiative, Mercy Care is engaging more than 40 community leaders, local government officials and other volunteers.
At the same time, the three-woman staff of Mercy Care serves as master organizer for more than 80 volunteers — 12 trained parish nurses and 70+ friendship volunteers — who respond to calls for assistance. The parish nurses help people coming home from the hospital, explain medications, support people with new diagnosis or bereavement, and make connections to human services and between agencies.
Friendship volunteers substitute for family and friends who can’t be there, and end up feeling like family and friends themselves. The relationships that develop are rewarding on both sides.