The Beginning: Seniors Aid New Hampshire grew out of a series of events that began in the summer of 2006. It was then that NHHCA held resident forums in nursing homes and assisted living communities located in seven regions of the state. It was the goal of NHHCA to solicit the ideas and feedback of residents that would drive the next NHHCA initiatives aimed at culture change and person centered care in these communities. Little did NHHCA know that it would be the residents who would take the reins and lead this charge. The residents agreed to begin working on the following three concepts.
- Strengthening resident councils
- Creating opportunities for residents to do meaningful work
- Establishing communication between residents living in different LTC communities
Success in 2008: A statewide project called Seniors Feed New Hampshire launched in early 2008. Through an e-mail communication network supported by NHHCA, the resident councils of Pleasant View Nursing Home in Concord, NH invited their peers from around the state to join them in raising money to support New Hampshire Food Bank. A group of residents from 52 NHHCA and NH Association of Counties LTC communities agreed that hunger in New Hampshire was unacceptable and joined forces to raise more than $42,000 in support of NH Food Bank. This inspiring group of seniors used e-mail and conference calls to organize themselves into a powerful force for positive change. They earned the attention of key state leaders and senior advocates. At a forum discussion, they informed the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman of their desire to be informed of changes in public policy and their desire to offer feedback. They committed themselves to future support and collaboration on projects aimed at the betterment of New Hampshire citizens, especially for those in need.
A new identity: Shortly after announcing their interest in public policy and working with state officials and senior advocates, Seniors Feed NH members decided to choose a new name for themselves. They wanted something that more appropriately described the expanded scope of their interests and intentions. Members submitted new names to be voted on by the group. Each member community’s resident council chose their top three choices and submitted them to NHHCA for counting. The winning name was Seniors Aid New Hampshire.
- SANH members work collaboratively with the owners, administrators and staff of their homes to continually enhance and improve quality of life for residents and working environment for staff.
- SANH members work within their homes and surrounding communities on projects such as fundraising for charitable organizations, including the NH Food Bank and the Long Term Care Foundation.
- SANH members are the drivers of the organization and they are supported by the staff in their homes and the New Hampshire Health Care Association (NHHCA) who facilitate the communication among the groups and helps them reach the policy-makers they wish to speak with.
- SANH members plan, coordinate and implement conferences and celebrations. Members and support staff travel from all regions of the state to attend these events. At the events, attendees celebrate SANH successes, meet with key state leaders, participate in forum discussions and attend educational seminars. SANH members frequently use these occasions to discuss and exchange ideas related to growing and strengthening their resident councils.
The following are projects both ongoing and completed that SANH has worked on:
- The Food Bank Project
This annual fundraiser on behalf of New Hampshire Food Bank has been held each winter/spring since 2008. In that time, SANH has raised in excess of $140,000.00 for NH Food Bank. This project began with a discussion in late 2007 at which time SANH members announced that they felt “hunger in New Hampshire is unacceptable.” Each year SANH members decide if their community (nursing home, assisted living or independent living community) will raise money for the Food Bank Project in that particular year. Those who choose to participate hold their own fundraisers at their home and send all proceeds directly to NH Food Bank.
- “The Right to be Pain Free” – DEA enforcement blocks pain medication for nursing home residents
In recent years the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has begun aggressively enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in such a way as to block nurses in nursing homes from administering certain pain medication to residents at the verbal direction of a physician. Previously, it had been the practice of physicians to verbally order pain medication over the phone for residents who were suffering severe pain in emergency situations. In these scenarios, RN’s working in the nursing home would act as an agent of the physician by administering medication to suffering residents quickly so as to alleviate pain as quickly as possible and prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
In October 2009, SANH members learned what was causing this problem by reading an article in the Washington Post titled “DEA Crackdown Hurts Nursing Home Residents Who Need Pain Drugs.” In February 2010, SANH met with Congressman Paul Hodes via conference call. They discussed their concern over the DEA policy with the Congressman and decided to write a letter to him and the other members of the New Hampshire Federal Delegation asking that the problem related to the DEA be resolved. A reply from Congressman Hodes to SANH can be viewed by clicking here.
On March 24th 2010, the SANH letter and a video of SANH member Tom Molway reading the letter was entered into the official record of a hearing titled “The War on Drugs Meets the War on Pain: Nursing Home Patients Caught in the Crossfire” that was held by Senator Herb Kohl and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. A letter from Senator Kohl thanking SANH for their perspective can be viewed by clicking here.
The Road Ahead
Seniors Aid NH members have begun participating in the process of forming sound public policy by writing letters to the Governor of New Hampshire, testifying before legislative committees and working with resident advocates on a wide array of issues. Resident participation on SANH conference calls and projects continues to increase. As participating communities network and share ideas, collaboration between residents, administrators and staff evolves and improves, thus improving the quality of life for residents within the homes and throughout the community.