Senior Life: Urban Medical now makes ‘House Calls’

July 25, 2008
By

SASHA VAUT


Photo by Sasha Vaut Nurse practitioner Kate Kelley listens to the lungs of patient Ann Lambrecht during a routine home visit in Jamaica Plain.

Jamaica Plain resident Ann Lambrecht leaves her bed for just a couple of hours a day with the assistance of a home health aide.

During this time, she reads, pieces together jigsaw puzzles and fills out paperwork to arrange payment for her heath care services. As a paraplegic, she has limited mobility, which can complicate even the smallest task. But for Lambrecht, a 71-year-old former nurses’ aide, the important thing is that she’s able to do these things in her own home where she lives independently. This is possible because of JP-based Urban Medical’s House Calls program.

Urban Medical is getting national recognition for using nurse practitioner/physician teams to make regular house calls so that frail patients can continue living in their own homes. It provides these services to about 500 homebound seniors in Jamaica Plain and surrounding communities, primarily in assisted living and senior housing facilities but also in their homes. Urban Medical has plans to expand the program to include more clients in JP.

“They help me. They’re wonderful,” said Lambrecht, referring to Urban Medical’s team of care providers.

Meeting the needs of patients like Lambrecht is the mission of Urban Medical, a non-profit medical practice founded in 1979 to provide primary care to the elderly, the chronically ill and the underserved. Demand for its services is so high that Urban Medical was forced to close its House Calls practice to new patients for a time, but with four new physicians arriving in the next few months, Urban Medical is accepting new patients again.

Lambrecht met Dr. John Jainchill when they worked together at Mount Pleasant Home, where he was medical director. “I was working as a nurse’s aide, and he would come in every other Friday,” she recalled. In 1990, he agreed to become her doctor.

In 2000, Lambrecht underwent an abdominal operation, but complications left her paralyzed from the chest down. For three years, Lambrecht was shuttled among health care facilities and family members’ homes in search of the best situation. Finally, she moved into an apartment especially adapted for disabled people at the Forbes Building elderly housing complex next door to the Urban Medical office at 545A Centre St.

In 2003, Lambrecht’s large, motorized wheelchair was making it increasingly difficult for her to get around. Jainchill advised her to join the Urban Medical House Calls program, which allows patients to be cared for in the comfort of their own homes.

“One day I was coming back from CVS and Dr. Jainchill was going the other way,” she said. “He said, ‘You’re going to get a visit at your home from us.’ I had no idea what it meant, but I said, ‘OK’. And it was Kate.”

Kate Kelley is Lambrecht’s nurse practitioner. She works with Jainchill as part of a team of caregivers.

Chest infections are a concern for Lambrecht as her paraplegia prevents her from noticing symptoms at an early stage. So Kelley is ever-vigilant, starting her patient on antibiotics as soon as possible. As a result, Lambrecht has been able to avoid possible hospitalizations several times.

“She’s wonderful,” Lambrecht said of Kelley. “She orders medications for me and makes sure I get them.”

One benefit of the House Calls program is its emphasis on well-coordinated, personalized care. “Seniors with heart or respiratory problems sometimes have much difficulty leaving their house,” said Kelley. “We monitor their blood pressure, heart failure and respiratory condition and check on their medications. We make changes early when we see any signs of problems.”

“You know, when you called today we heard a slight difference in your voice. That’s why we come sometimes,” Kelley told Lambrecht during an unexpected visit. “We like to check up on you to make sure nothing is going unnoticed.”

“In Ann, you have a person with significant disabilities,” said Jainchill. “What House Calls can do for her is not to fix her, but do the best possible for her, given the situation.”

Lambrecht said of the staff at Urban Medical, especially Kelley, “They check on me, make sure I’m doing well and always make my day better.”

Urban Medical has announced plans to move its central office from 545A Centre St. to new space at 301 S. Huntington Ave., where Mount Pleasant Home will be expanding. Originally scheduled for fall 2007, the move is now expected to take place in fall 2009.

For more information about Urban Medical, call 522-5464 or see www.urbanmedical.org.

The writer is the development coordinator at Urban Medical.