LAVN get ready to party

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By Kirsten Laskey

After 35 years of providing home medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, Los Alamos Visiting Nurses have decided the time is right for a party.

As a result, an open house will be held from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Visiting Nurses office.

Cake and punch will be served. “(We’re) just inviting everybody to come celebrate,” executive director Sarah Rochester said. “(It’s) kind of a long time to have a business in Los Alamos.

“We love the community and it’s our way of saying thank you.”  

Rochester started the business with Edy Adnerson.

“Thirty-five years ago Edy Anderson and I were each working for physicians in the community and each of us were making home visits for more physicians …and we thought that our community needed a home care service.”

While Anderson moved to Taos, Rochester has seen the Visiting Nurses expand into Española and northern Santa Fe.

Additionally, Rochester complimented the “wonderful” staff who work at the Visiting Nurses, calling them really “super” folks.

Several factors led to the organization’s success, Rochester said.

“I think the number one reason is the great care the staff gives and that they like what they’re doing,” she said. “And the wonderful support we received from the medical community (and) from the physicians.”

Los Alamos Visiting Nurses’ longevity is also due to it fulfilling a need in the community.

“Medical costs continue to escalate,” Rochester said, “(and) hospitalizations are shorter, people like to go home as soon as they can (to) be treated at home.”  

Also the demographics of the area show Los Alamos residents are aging; more people are staying in the townsite after they retire, Rochester said.

Therefore, the staff stays busy. They usually see four to six patients every day, she said.

Of those patients, 60 percent are on Medicare, 5 percent have Medicaid, 35 percent are privately insured and patients’ ages range from days old to 104.

The Visiting Nurse staff is also busy working on several future projects.

Rochester said they hope to build a hospice house in the community. She explained the house would be for respite and to meet the needs of the terminally ill. Currently, the organization is working with county staff and architects to develop a footprint for the facility.

Also in the works is a home maker and home health aid class that can be reimbursed by long term care insurance. Rochester said they are currently working on a grant for someone to teach the classes.

The services the Visiting Nurses currently provide include medical care, such as administrating medications, IV administration and pain management; physical therapy, which includes exercises and treatments to relieve pain and restore use of muscles and limbs; and occupational therapy, which involves therapeutic training to help increase ability to function independently in daily living.

Staff also team up to provide speech therapy, which includes evaluating patients’ speech disorders and training them to relearn speaking skills. Medical social workers and counselors are available through the organization, too along with hospice services.

Looking at the past 35 years of offering these services, “I’m pleased that it’s survived,” Rochester said. “I‘m pleased that we’ve been able to provide these services. I hope the Visiting Nurses will be around another 35 years.”