Jolenta Convent provides health care to its residents
“There is no shortcut to longevity. To win it is the work of a lifetime, and the promotion of it is a branch of preventive medicine.”
— Sir James Crichton-Browne
By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
Nestled within the confines of the Jolenta Convent in Syracuse is a system that provides health care for the elderly. In this setting, health care professionals provide skilled care, intermediate care and assisted living services to 47 Sisters of St. Francis.
The best possible care is provided to the sisters through the efforts of PACE CNY (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) and Franciscan Home Care.
The health care facility was built in 1995 to accommodate the increasing number of elderly sisters who were in need of health care. At that time, the administration hired a full-time nursing staff. Then, in 2005, PACE CNY signed on to supplement the care provided by Franciscan Home Support.
The innovative PACE is a program sponsored by Loretto in cooperation with St. Joseph’s
Hospital Health Center.
PACE was created in 1973 in an effort to help the Asian-American community in San Francisco care for its elderly in their own homes. It provided an innovative way to offer a comprehensive array of medical supervision, physical and occupational therapies, nutrition, transportation, respite care, socialization and other needed services using home care and an adult day setting.
Nationally, PACE operated as a demonstration program until the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 approved the granting of provider status to PACE programs under Medicare and gave state Medicaid agencies the option to include PACE as a Medicaid benefit.
In 1991, Loretto began exploring the feasibility of starting a PACE program in Onondaga County. By 1994, determined to develop a PACE model, Loretto designed its first PACE site, developed the program and hired its initial staff. Independent Living Services, as it was called then, officially opened on Dec. 1, 1997 with six enrollees.
Ten years later, Independent Living Services operates under the name PACE CNY and has expanded to include two PACE centers with 365 participants.
Maureen Grant, director of nursing at Jolenta Convent, said that when an elderly person is initially admitted, she automatically receives health care through the services of Franciscan Home Care. But some residents need the additional services provided by PACE. Those services include physical and occupational therapy, management of medical care by a doctor and nurse practitioner, dietary counseling, social work, transportation and activities.
A total of four case managers/RNs, nine LPNs, 13 home health aides and four care helpers provide the health care to the sisters at Jolenta Convent. Each resident’s health care is managed by her own personal case worker. “The staff and the sisters have quickly become like a family,” said Grant. “They really care about the sisters.”
Sister Helaine Bultmann, OSF and Sister Timothy Blattler, OSF are two residents of Jolenta Convent that are receiving intermediate care and benefiting from the services provided by PACE.
Sister Helaine, at 84, appears happy and the picture of health. She has been receiving care at Jolenta since 1998. Sister Helaine, afflicted with arthritis, said she has received excellent treatment during her stay there and that the disease is under control.
“I’m very satisfied with PACE’s services,” said Sister Helaine. “They provide me with the transportation to get to my specialized doctors and they gave me my wheelchair. PACE sent me for a hearing aid, too.”
Sister Helaine said she especially enjoys attending Mass every day in the chapel located on the first floor.
Born in Syracuse, Sister Helaine recalled a happy and contented family life, headed by her father who owned a floral business. She contemplated becoming a florist, but decided to serve God instead. “I loved flowers, but I felt God was calling me,” said Sister Helaine.
Sister Helaine entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1942 and professed her vows in
Sister Helaine earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Le Moyne College, a masters in education from the College of St. Rose in Albany and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Syracuse University.
Sister Helaine spent much of her career teaching at schools such as Cathedral and Holy Family Elementary Schools in Syracuse. She also taught for a few years at Maria Regina College in Syracuse and also at elementary schools in Ohio and New Jersey.
“I have lots of good memories,” said Sister Helaine. Her eyes lit up as she recounted her experience of traveling to Italy one summer as part of a Franciscan studies course. “I visited all the places connected to the life of Francis,” recalled Sister Helaine. “It was wonderful. I spent three weeks in Assisi.”
Sister Helaine, a very positive and outgoing person, enjoys an active social life. She speaks with great enthusiasm about the parties that are held monthly at the convent. She also enjoys the activities that are held twice weekly in the same location. The activities include bingo, Chinese auctions, movies, trivia and games.
Sister Helaine explained how she relishes visiting her friends’ home where she watches movies and musicals.
Sister Helaine also recalled with pleasure the day that representatives from PACE took her to see a Syracuse University basketball game.
Before retiring, Sister Helaine worked for 12 years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse in
the data processing unit. “I loved it,” said Sister Helaine. “Everyone was so kind — we were like a family.”
Sister Timothy, at 99, said she is so busy she can’t fit another activity into her schedule. “I like it here,” she said. “I enjoy everything. I feel secure and I am well taken care of.”
A conscientious person, Sister Timothy began her long, full life of service with the Sisters of St. Francis in Rome, Italy in 1930 when she entered the order. A native of Germany, Sister Timothy settled in the U.S. in 1931.
For the first three years of her service, Sister Timothy helped out with housekeeping at her motherhouse in Albany.
In 1935, Sister Timothy was asked if she had an interest in being trained to be a nurse. She did, but everyone involved thought that the training would be too difficult because of the language barrier. “I said, ‘Whatever has to be done, I’ll do it.’”
From that time on, she served in many capacities.
Sister Timothy served in such places as Washington, D.C. and Utica, where she taught children and performed housekeeping duties. She also worked at a children’s orphanage in Oswego for three years.
Sister Timothy worked with the elderly at St. Joseph’s Home in Hoboken, N.J. until 1956 when she took over as administrator of the home for retired priests, St. Pius X in Syracuse.
“I was called ‘mother’ and ‘doctor,’ among other things,” said Sister Timothy. “I took care of everything. I enjoyed it. I had a full life. I tried to do my best wherever I was.”
Sister Timothy retired in 1998.
Sister Timothy said that over the course of the years she has traveled to Germany seven times to visit her family. She recalled how, when she left Germany for the first time, her mother told her that she didn’t want her to leave. Sister Timothy’s mother wanted her to stay in Germany to care for her in her old age. Her mother passed away before sister Timothy was able to make her first trip back home.
Grant explained the layout of the health care facility. The first floor contains the living area. It includes the main dining room, which is festively decorated for each season and holiday. A second dining room has been provided for the sisters who need assistance with their meals. On the first floor is a physical therapy room in which maintenance therapy is offered for the sisters. “They love it,” said Grant.
Grant also said that a laundry service is available for those sisters who are unable to do their own laundry. In addition, a hairdresser visits the facility monthly to service the residents.
Those sisters requiring health care on a skilled level reside on the second floor. Home health aides assist the sisters with their personal care, transferring them from a bed to a chair and with their meals, among other things.
The sisters who are more independent with their care reside on the third and fourth floors.
“I think the nurses really care about what they do here,” said Grant.
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