How home-care visits can help

When a nurse or other staff step into a patient’s home, an interesting dynamic takes place, one that differs from the clinic or hospital.

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When you’re ill — especially with a chronic or even terminal illness — managing everyday care can take a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy.

Trying to stay one step ahead of medications, appointments and other care needs can be overwhelming — for patients and families.

What is MVNA?

Often in-home support is what’s needed, said Julie Endres-Spray, a registered nurse and the clinical director for Home Health at Hennepin Healthcare, which operates MVNA.

MVNA, formerly known as the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency, has grown to encompass much more. It is the community connections care division for Hennepin Healthcare system, offering safety-net care from prenatal and birth care to end-of-life and bereavement care, serving patients from across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

“The support needed to keep patients healthy is one that MVNA visiting nurses and their care teams are intimately familiar with and passionate about,” Endres-Spray said. “Support is integral to our mission — and has been for more than 115 years.”

The benefits of home

“Home” can mean a private residence, nursing home, homeless shelter or care facility.

When a nurse or other staff step into a patient’s home, an interesting dynamic takes place, one that differs from the clinic or hospital.

We enter the patient’s personal space, seeing how they live, who lives with and cares for them, coming shoulder-to-shoulder with the story of the patient and their condition. It is this privileged position and experience that forges the partnership between nurse, patient and caregiver.

“The home becomes the heart of care for everyone involved,” said Jean Lukaszewski, a registered nurse and administrator for hospice.

“As a caregiver, you are the patient’s advocate, encouraging them to build healthy habits and to live each day fully,” Lukaszewski said, adding: “And as a caregiver, it may be hard to admit that you need support as well.”

A team approach

Nurses work hand and hand with interdisciplinary staff, such as social workers, home health aides, community health workers and others to care for patients and minimize barriers to healing.

MVNA visiting nurses and staff can lighten the load and offer expertise. Home care lessens a caregiver’s burden by making sure the patient receives safe, effective, high-quality clinical care. It also reduces emergency department visits and re-admissions that might slow a patient’s ability to heal and remain independent.

Other staff — such as social workers and community health workers — can help assess psychosocial needs, such as food resources, transportation and housing needs, and encourage access to
community resources.

One recent success story is Angel, a New Brighton resident, who is battling heart failure. She was living independently — and didn’t require home care — until she slipped and fell in her bathroom, injuring her back. With the help of her MVNA home-care nurse and a community health worker, Angel was able to take control of her life and her condition by accessing personal care assistant (PCA) services and also Metro Mobility transportation to get to her medical appointments as well as run errands.

Whether a patient is a new parent, an adult with chronic disease or a senior in hospice, home-visiting services can make a positive impact on recovery and can help facilitate a return to self-sufficiency.

How to get started

A referral is required for home-visiting services. Consult with the patient’s primary care provider to see if home care is appropriate. Most home care is covered by insurance.

Caren Gaytko is registered nurse and the Senior Director of Community Care at Hennepin Healthcare, an integrated system of care including HCMC, eight neighborhood clinics; the tri-state poison control center; and a medical education program that trains physicians.

What we do

MVNA has more than 20 community-based programs in four service areas to address prenatal, parenting, chronic disease management, prevention, wellness and end-of-life care needs:

Family Health: Family-centered and community-based home visits help promote healthy birth outcomes and positive parent-child interactions; healthy child growth and development; healthy and safe care environments; family self-sufficiency; school attendance and the use of community resources; and also help prevent complications of illness and chronic diseases and conditions.

Home Health: This service helps adults with acute and chronic medical conditions, including cancer, COPD, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, chemical dependency and mental health issues. In addition to nursing care, full-service rehabilitation is provided by physical, occupational and speech therapists, who specialize in home rehabilitation.

Community Health: Programs in this area include school nurse consultations; annual personal care assistant (PCA) assessments; and worksite wellness services, including mobile flu and health screening clinics.

Hospice: This type of end-of-life care is focused on easing the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that can accompany
a terminal illness.

Learn more about MVNA at