Frank Olenski of Shelton loved birthday cake. And
anniversary cake, and wedding cake—and just
about any type of cake connected to a family
celebration. “Dad always looked forward to family parties,
and loved being with his five children and grandchildren,”
remembers his younger daughter, Gloria DeBernardo, also
Frank also loved his country—he was a proud World War II
Navy veteran. A local businessman for more than 30 years,
he founded a second business in retirement and volunteered
in the community. Frank and his wife, Eleanor, “lived the
American Dream,” says Gloria.
But when Frank entered his mid-80s, his outgoing personality
disappeared. “He became very anxious, difficult and
self-absorbed. He didn’t want to be around his family, and
if we did convince him to join us at a family function,
he would want to go home 20 minutes after we arrived,”
says Gloria. “These were events he used to look forward
to and enjoy. We were worried because this wasn’t the
father we knew.”
Frank’s doctor prescribed medication for depression
and anxiety, but it didn’t make a difference. “As a nurse,
I had complete faith in these types of medications, so I was
surprised when my dad didn’t respond to them. I remember
telling him, ‘You can’t be that tough of a nut to crack,’”
Then, based on a recommendation from Frank’s doctor,
Eleanor and the children decided to bring Frank to the
Center for Geriatrics at Bridgeport Hospital for a geriatric
assessment. “A geriatric assessment is the first step in figuring
out the right care for an older adult,” says Geriatrician
Vivian Argento, MD. “It can reveal the reasons for many
changes an older adult may experience as they age.” The full
assessment, which takes approximately 90 minutes, includes
a physical exam; tests and screenings to evaluate the patient
physically, emotionally and mentally; a review of all medications
and supplements the patient is taking; an interview
with family members to help identify problems and solutions;
and a comprehensive planning session with the
patient, family and physician.
Dr. Argento and her team evaluated Frank, adjusted his
medication and set up a wellness plan for him that included
doctor visits and activities at a local adult day care center.
According to Gloria, her father’s transformation following
the assessment was nothing short of miraculous.
“I call them the Magic Team,” says Gloria. “They succeeded
in finding the right regimen for Dad and brought
the sparkle and smile back to his face.” Frank was finally
enjoying life again. He smiled. He made jokes. He looked
forward to family gatherings.
“The biggest breakthrough I remember was the morning
he asked me, ‘So, how are your girls?’” remembers Gloria,
referring to her daughters. “That’s when I knew he wasn’t
stuck in his head anymore and that the changes
Dr. Argento and her team delivered were making a big
difference in his life.”
Later, when Frank became permanently home bound due
to ataxia (lack of muscle coordination, loss of balance,
tendency to fall), getting to and from a doctor’s office for
appointments became impossible. As part of the Center
for Geriatrics’ comprehensive services, Frank qualified for
the Center’s Home Visit Program.
Circa 1950: Frank was the proud proprietor of White Walk
Market for 30 years and, in semi-retirement, Glori-Lyn
Meat Specialty Foods, both in Stratford.
Through the Center for Geriatrics’ Home Visit Program,
Bridgeport Hospital geriatric specialists (physicians and
nurse practitioners) visit the patient’s home, take care
of any health issues, provide basic tests and home blood
draws, coordinate care and gauge home safety. “For many
older adults, a trip to the doctor’s office can be very
difficult due to physical or mental health conditions that
prevent them from leaving their homes. As a result, housebound
men and women may not get the medical attention
they need, until a routine health problem escalates into
an emergency. By providing care at home, many of our
patients get healthcare earlier,” says Chief of Geriatrics
Beata Skudlarska, MD. “And getting care early can help
avoid an Emergency Department visit or prevent development
of a serious medical condition.”
“To have Dad’s care at home was a godsend for all of us,”
says Gloria. “He was able to stay where he and my mother
wanted to be.”
Frank passed away in 2008, but his success in the Home
Visit Program prompted his wife Eleanor to pursue the
same in-home care option when she needed it. Even at 90,
Eleanor was able to stay in her own home and receive
medical care for her mounting health issues. “If it hadn’t
been for the Home Visit Program, Mom would have
been in the hospital or in a nursing home,” says Gloria.
“One of us visited her nearly every day and checked in by
phone all the time, but with full-time jobs and families—
we’re part of the Sandwich Generation—caring for her
ourselves wasn’t an option. Mom loved being at home,
and we knew she was well cared for by Dr. Argento and
the Center for Geriatrics team.” Eleanor recently moved to
an assisted living facility where Dr. Argento will continue
to care for her as her primary physician.
When questions arise between visits, Gloria or Eleanor call
upon Geriatric Case Manager Dori Rogers, RN, MSN,
for answers and guidance. “That’s what makes this program
golden. We have the support of the Center’s entire team,
with help just a phone call away. Dori handles my concerns
with such compassion. She or one of the geriatricians gets
back to me the same day,” explains Gloria.
The Geriatric Home Visit Program
The Geriatric Home Visit Program includes a comprehensive assessment and follow-up visits
by a geriatrician (physician) or geriatric nurse practitioner. Home visits alternate between
the physician and the nurse practitioner, so both healthcare providers get to know their patients.
The Geriatric Home Visit Program becomes the primary care physician for these patients.
If hospitalization is necessary for Geriatric Home Visit Program patients, Bridgeport Hospital provides that care.
|Who is eligible?
||What services are provided?
|The Geriatric Home Visit Program accepts adults
- who are 55 years or older, AND
- who are housebound and, for physical or mental health reasons, cannot get to a doctor’s office, AND
- whose healthcare insurance (Medicare or private) will cover the cost of the program.
||Some of the services an older adult may be able to receive* at home as part of the Geriatric Home Visit Program include:
- Doctor visits
- Some X-rays using a portable X-ray machine
- EKGs (a test to check the heart)
- Blood tests
- Nursing service referrals
- Physical and occupational therapy
* based on insurance coverage and/or a physician referral
For more information about Bridgeport Hospital’s
Geriatric Home Visit Program, please call 203-384-3388.
1995: The Olenski family. Pictured (l-r) are son Tom,
daughter Linda, Frank and Eleanor, son John, son Ted and
Gloria treasures a photo she has of her father, which was
taken the day his smile came back. “What I love about
that picture is that it reflects the return of his patient, caring
soul. I’ll never forget the smile he would flash my way
across the room over a slice of cake at a family gathering.
Or, later in life, the wink and a smile he would shoot me
through the bathroom mirror while shaving, as I helped
him get ready each morning,” she says.
“I would have hated to see my father pass away depressed
and anxious. It was so special to see him relaxed and at ease
in the last chapter of his life,” Gloria continues. “Thanks
to Dr. Argento and the Center for Geriatrics, we got him
back. What a gift to allow him to remain at home to the
end. This is the way to treat our aging loved ones.”
Geriatric Physician Specialists at Bridgeport Hospital
What is a Geriatrician?
Geriatricians are physicians who specialize in the care of older adults. Geriatricians focus on improving
their patients’ quality of life and functional ability.
Specific training and certification in geriatric medicine is required. The highest level of qualification
is participation in a Geriatric Fellowship, which ranges from one to three years of study after completing
a residency, and a specialty Board Examination to assure expertise in the field of geriatrics.
All of Bridgeport Hospital’s geriatricians are Fellowship-trained and have successfully passed their
Bridgeport Hospital Geriatricians:
Beata Skudlarska, MD, Chief of Geriatrics
Vivian Argento, MD • Marina Blagodatny, MD • Mithil Choksey, MD
Internists working with the Geriatric Group:
Warren Heller, MD • Karine Toumanian, MD
For more information about, or a referral to, any of these
expert physicians, please call 1-888-357-2396, toll-free, 24/7.
||Share your Story|
Have you or a loved one been treated by the Center for Geriatrics? Tell us about
your experience in our online forum!
Post a Comment on this story