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LIFE at Lourdes Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary

Program continues to enable thousands of South Jersey seniors to live safely at home

Sister Marge Sullivan, executive director, LIFE at Lourdes, with participant Paul Young.  Approximately 200 participants are enrolled in the LIFE at Lourdes program, which is celebrating its fifth year of helping seniors live safely at home. Credit: Photo taken by Andrea Cipriani-Mecchi, for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Good News.

Sister Marge Sullivan, executive director, LIFE at Lourdes, with participant Paul Young. Approximately 200 participants are enrolled in the LIFE at Lourdes program, which is celebrating its fifth year of helping seniors live safely at home. Credit: Photo taken by Andrea Cipriani-Mecchi, for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Good News.

LIFE at Lourdes is celebrating its fifth year of assisting South Jersey seniors to live safely at home. The unique program, based in Pennsauken, NJ, provides seniors with a team of healthcare experts, allowing participants to remain independent and in some cases, forgo the need for nursing home care.

LIFE at Lourdes is part of the LIFE (Living Independently for Elderly) programs offered around the country, which provide health services at LIFE centers. The programs are made possible in part by Medicare or Medicaid assistance.

Nationally, there are 103 LIFE programs operating in 31 states, and only four in New Jersey (including LIFE at Lourdes). Lourdes is a member of CHE-Trinity Health, the nation’s largest provider of the LIFE program. LIFE programs provided by CHE-Trinity Health are considered a model of care.

For many South Jersey seniors and their families, the LIFE at Lourdes program is a blessing. “Our healthcare team manages the care of each individual participant, tailoring a plan to his or her specific needs,” said Sister Marge Sullivan, executive director, LIFE at Lourdes. “Utilizing an interdisciplinary team that knows the whole picture for each participant allows us to really integrate the care they receive. We take care of people, soup to nuts.”

That integrated care includes all medical, nursing, social and behavioral services, such as adult day care, medication, transportation to and from the LIFE center, medical equipment and supplies, nutrition, occupational, physical and speech therapies, lab work, x-rays, and more.

Eighty-five-year-old Mount Ephraim resident Norma Cody was the first participant to join LIFE at Lourdes five years ago. “Having a stroke was the worst day of my life,” said Cody. “Coming to LIFE at Lourdes was one of the best days of my life. It’s made such a difference for me. I was lost and in bad shape. Now I get to enjoy time with friends, get the medical care I need, and I’m able to go home at the end of the day, where I can continue living independently and still do things for myself.”

Sr. Marge says being independent is the basis behind the LIFE at Lourdes program. “The goal is for participants to be self-sufficient. We know that people do better when they stay in their own environment. And we respect how special someone’s home is to them. We do all we can to make sure it’s safe for a participant to stay in their home, trying to honor their wishes for independence.”

The care that extends beyond the center means LIFE team members evaluate each participant’s home from a health and safety perspective. This may include installing special equipment in a home bathroom, installing better lighting to allow for better vision, providing medical alert systems, and/or removing carpet to lay down wood floors – so a wheelchair can operate more easily. Assistance with laundry, home cleaning and shopping are also provided.

At the LIFE at Lourdes center, a typical day starts with 11 buses and vans heading out to pick-up about 100 seniors and bring them to the center for the day. “Once participants are here, the routines vary,” said Sr. Marge. “Sometimes a participant has a social work, occupational or physical therapy appointment, or meets with friends and plays board games. Others might attend prayer services. We also offer day trips to the aquarium, ballgames or concerts, as well as special celebrations, such as senior proms, 100-year-old participant birthday parties and choir performances. Each day includes breakfast, a hot lunch, and transportation back home.”

The social aspect of LIFE at Lourdes is very important to seniors, said Sr. Marge. “We are a family. The interaction, support and activity keep people going. Despite any personal challenges, there is a joy that radiates from participants when they are here.”

Cody, who is an unofficial ambassador and recruiter for LIFE at Lourdes, agrees. “LIFE at Lourdes keeps people from being lonely. I worked in a nursing home before my stroke and I know that for some people there, it’s hard to feel capable. So I try to befriend new people and make them feel welcomed. I give a helping hand. When I’m here, I’m so focused on the center and my friends that I forget I had a stroke. Being here is all the therapy I need.”

Adds Sr. Marge, “LIFE at Lourdes gives people the medical and nursing care they need, while engaging them as human beings, preserving their dignity. We treat people as a loving family member would – caring for the whole person. I am honored to be a part of our program.”

LIFE at Lourdes is currently renovating its space to include a 4,000 square-foot expansion, giving the building three times the space it originally occupied. The expansion will allow for more fitness and therapy equipment, as well as the ability to serve more participants.

If you are at least 55 years of age and interested in becoming a LIFE at Lourdes participant, please call 856-675-3675 to learn more about the program.

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