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Quick Actions of Geriatrics and Extended Care Team Save Veteran’s Life

Dr. Belinda Setters

LOUISVILLE, KY - While awaiting assessment for Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) eligibility, the Geriatrics and Extended Care (GEC) team received a call from a Veteran reporting that he needed assistance.

Expressing concerns about his safety, an HBPC charge nurse took the call even though the Veteran was not yet enrolled in the program. It was immediately assessed that the Veteran was experiencing hunger and had not eaten in some time and quickly alerted the team’s Dietician, Noreen Young.  

Young immediately contacted the Veteran who acknowledged that he hadn’t eaten in four days and was having difficulty leaving his second story apartment. Limited financial means also prevented food deliveries in addition to having  no one to assist with groceries.

Young quickly assessed the Veteran’s situation and realized she could get provisions out to the Veteran’s home in under an hour while it would take considerably longer – possibly even another day or so – for the team to arrange assistance for the Veteran. After discussing the situation with Dr. Belinda Setters, an urgent in-home visit was immediately advised. Young then quickly obtained groceries for the Veteran from the newly established food bank on site at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center, got him a hot meal and proceeded to his home.

As anticipated, the Veteran was home alone with no food. Young prepared a meal for him and put away the groceries. She talked to him about VA benefits and resources as well as the Medical Foster Home (MFH) program and HBPC. Young also ensured he would be seen by a primary care provider until he was able to be assessed for possible HBPC and possible MFH enrollment.   

According to Dr. Setters, the issue of food insecurity is all too common in the Veteran community. 

“Following this incident, I gathered fellow dieticians to discuss possible solutions to better fight food insecurity,” Setters stated. “We immediately realized that screening every patient more thoroughly for food access and insecurity had to be a larger priority in our processes. We also identified the need to assist Veterans with more access to non-perishable foods and gift cards to assist Veterans in need.”

These discussions also led to a desired goal of establishing a new partnership with community agencies and for the Center for Development and Civic Engagement (CDCE) office to provide emergency resources more efficiently. This meant that the GEC and CDCE offices would need to work more closely together. 

“The sole purpose of the food pantry is precisely for emergency situations such as this one,” CDCE Chief Suzanne Harrett stated. “The CDCE is here to supplement and help sustain care and services for Veterans; establishing a food pantry on-site for emergencies is a critical way to accomplish this goal.  In addition to collecting food, we also have a great need for donations of travel size hygiene items and new clothing items - such and sweatpants and t-shirts.”

According to Harrett and Setters, the Robley Rex VAMC is seeking community partners and individual donors interested in providing needed items to fight food insecurity and clothing needs of our Veterans. To learn more how you can help, please contact the CDCE by emailing or calling 502-287-6221.

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