Seniors are St. Joseph Medical Center’s new focus

They’re empty now, but the Senior Suites open March 19 and are expected to be bustling. (Marty Denzer/Key photos)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — A clinic just for patients 65 years old and older, an emergency room staffed with physicians and nurses trained in geriatric needs, a pharmacy with a certified geriatric trained pharmacist; and a suite of hospital rooms for seniors. Suddenly, growing older looks brighter!

In fact, Ericka Beeler, St. Joseph Medical Center’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, said “More than 23,000 patients over the age of 65 were seen in 2017.”

Sister Margaret’s Senior Clinic, which opened last year, now offers a Healthy Aging Program: free all-inclusive physical wellness screening; nutrition counseling; and heathy heart screening. Seniors can also meet with a certified geriatric pharmacist, and have healthy mind and lung screenings performed by an experienced geriatric clinician and a respiratory therapist to ensure that they are the best they can be.

Free or low cost peripheral artery screenings, blood pressure checks and CardioScans are also offered. Some of the special services include balance screening and fall prevention, sensory problems, stroke, depression, incontinence and Alzheimer’s.

And to top it off, the clinic offers transportation to and from the clinic for those who need it, and it’s located on the first floor of the medical building (A) near the main doors.

The senior clinic’s goal is to remind seniors that even at age 65 or more that their hopes, dreams and ambitions are alive and well, vibrant and strong.

The clinic also offers programs in navigating Medicare enrollment stress free; making decisions on advance directives and a support group for patients and care givers dealing with Parkinson’s Disease.

Anne Xenos, Sister Margaret’s Senior Clinic’s manager, said it is Kansas City’s only comprehensive geriatric care clinic. Most services are covered by Medicare.

The Emergency Room, under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Baker, while still open to all emergencies, is also focused on patients 65 and older. She said the ER works with the senior clinic, since communication and continuity between providers ensures better care and returns to health for seniors. There are extra touches including kindness and TLC, as well as the presence of chaplains, which are important for the patient age 65 and older.

The exam cubbies with curtains are a thing of the past. Each patient is given a room, with a bed, chair and a door that closes for privacy. A team of nurses helps with bedding, changing to a hospital gown and making the patient as comfortable as possible. The triage nurse is mobile, moving from exam room to exam room, which allows for immediate bedding. Because of the team effort between the triage nurse, physicians and ER nurses, the average wait time for a care provider is about 8 minutes, Dr. Baker said. “We maximize staff making our service more efficient, which is beneficial to our patients.” In fact, recently St. Joseph’s ER was named No. 1 in patient satisfaction by the national PrimeHealth system.

Dr. Baker said that working in conjunction with the senior clinic has made building good relationships with the Emergency Med Techs in the ambulances a necessity, and that nurses often ride along with the EMTs on calls. Emergency Room nurse Laura Anderson said patients can request to be transported to a particular hospital.

The 8-room Senior Suites, for normally active patients in transition between traditional hospital care and preparing to return home, officially opens on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. Each large room is furnished with a hospital bed, a table and comfortable chairs in a sitting room area, private bath with a walk-in shower, a large window in the sitting room space and, instead of a wall at the front of the room, glass windows look out into the hallway. Patients will be able to exercise, share meals and activities, socialize and prepare to return to their world stronger and well-prepared. Each room also features a caregiver’s bed, a Murphy bed with a Tempurpedic mattress that family members and or care givers can use while staying with their loved one in the hospital.

Dr. Kathleen Anderson and Laura Anderson, R.N., are proud of the emergency room’s No. 1 for patient satisfaction.

Patients can participate in group therapy, enjoy a reminiscence group, and wear street clothes. There is also aquatic physical therapy, provided by the Outpatient Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center. The therapists are specially trained to offer this scientifically proven program that enhances the healing process and recovery time for many musculoskeletal and neurological disorders.

Dr. Kevin Farrell, a certified geriatrician, said there are some requirements a patient must meet before going home. They must perform basic daily activities, including dressing and feeding themselves, using the restroom, bathe themselves and move around from one room to another. “Our goal is to get patients well and back to their baseline in the community,” he said. “We take a comprehensive approach, including therapies and group activities, and socialization.”

Dr. Farrell said that when a patient returns home, all individuals involved in their care must communicate with each other. Family members especially should understand that changes in activities, personality, socializing or habits can be indicative of something wrong with the patient.

The three senior service areas —Sister Margaret’s Senior Clinic, the Emergency Room and the Senior Suites— work in tandem for comprehensive geriatric health care.

St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs doesn’t yet have a Senior Clinic, but does offer programs devoted to senior concerns. February for example, was American Heart Month, and St. Mary’s offered a program on how to take care of the heart. By the way, did you know your heart beats about 100,000 times each day to keep blood circulating throughout your body?

Cardiologists of the two medical centers have been awarded Chest Pain Designation and Accreditation by the healthcare industry.

Oprah Winfrey could have been talking about the Senior Clinic, ER and Senior Suites at St. Joseph’s when she said back in 2011, “We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, … that we don’t matter. … Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you.” St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s get it.


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October 31, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph