United Church of Christ’s Deaconess Nurse Ministry Making a Difference in Lives of Marginalized Seniors in Jefferson County, Mo.

Simple blood pressure checks by Deaconess Faith Community Nurses can save lives.

A small group of health professionals in the United Church of Christ’s Deaconess Nurse Ministry are changing life for the better for senior citizens in Jefferson County, Mo.

Through its Community Outreach Program, Deaconess Nurse Ministry is able to offer innovative programs at area food pantries that help seniors stay healthy. Thanks to a grant from the Jefferson Memorial Foundation, faith community nurses minister to Jefferson County clients in food pantries in Cedar Hill and Arnold, Mo.

An important part of the program, soup kitchens and food pantries are key in creating access to healthcare services for high-risk older adults. Because lower-income older adults are likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental health concerns, the faith community nurses provide often-lifesaving services in such settings.

The nurses do evidence-based assessments, say the Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, RN and executive director of Deaconess Nurse Ministry. These include blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, respiration and temperature, weight and height, and other evidence-based scales.

“They provide client education and support, as well as case management with appropriate social service and healthcare provider referrals,” Smith-Pupillo says. “Many do group evidence-based classes on chronic disease and exercise.”

In Jefferson County, Mo., Faith Community Nurses set up shop in local food pantries.

The impact of the program has been substantial. In just the past six months, some 21 percent of clients in Jefferson County received referrals to doctors, and more than 25 percent received education for chronic disease that, over time, resulted in demonstrated health improvement. But over the life of the program, that impact is even higher.

Says Smith-Pupillo, “Sixty-six percent of our clients report an improvement in their quality of life. Twenty-five percent of our clients who visit the nurse more than once in the food pantries in Jefferson County demonstrate a stabilization and improvement in blood sugar, weight, or blood pressure.”

In addition to its Community Outreach Program, DNM also has two other outreach programs: a House of Worship Program, in which nurses work with houses of worship to plan and care for people both in the congregation and outside the church walls; and a Senior Health Program, where nurses assist residents of affordable housing and independent senior facilities.

Recently, the Senior Health Program was recognized by a grant from the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis.

CHHSM member Deaconess Nurse Ministry improves and promotes the health of body, mind, spirit and community throughout the St. Louis region. Its approach to nursing begins with a commitment to caring for adults and low-income seniors at community places they already visit regularly. DNM regularly cares for individuals at 35 different locations across the St. Louis Region.

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