Highland Block Nurse Program Provides Respite Care


Paula Fischer, program director for the Highland Block Nurse Program recently shared the story of a woman in need of respite who cares for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease. Paula said, “We receive some federal funds to provide respite and other caregiver support.  So often caregivers try to go it alone and these services help to prevent exhaustion and isolation.”

Anne Kelly is the person Paula spoke of. She owns and operates an internet company called Juno Active, and she has to balance the demands of work with caregiving. She heard about the block nurse program and contacted Paula for help. As a result, she is back to swimming twice a week. “Anne said, “The water is stress-relieving. I swim for 30 minutes and get a shower without having to worry about my husband. It’s a treat.”  

Anne says the only good thing about Alzheimer’s is the people who have it aren’t distressed about it. However, caring for someone with the disease can be challenging. Long-time Highland Block Nurse Program staff member Mary Ziemer cares for Anne’s husband while she’s in the pool, and Anne says she’s wonderful. “Sometimes my husband says, ‘what are you doing here,’ but Mary rolls with the punches. It’s not easy being a respite worker, but Mary is able to pull tricks out of her bag. Sometimes she grabs family photos and asks him to tell family stories.” Anne describes Mary as confident and experienced, which makes transitions easier.”

The Highland Block Nurse Program is part of Our Lady of Peace and upholds our mission of quality care to the community. It has served older adults and their caregivers in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul since 1987, and it’s something that Anne deeply values. “Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone creates their own patchwork quilt with the pieces. The Block Nurse Program is a resource within my supportive web. The time will come when I will have to place my husband somewhere else, but for now, this is great.”

Paula Fischer says, “Along with in-home RN and Home Health Aide visits and our volunteer assistance, respite is another core service that reflects our program’s mission of caring for elders in the community.”

Highland Block Nurse Program provides services in the Highland Park neighborhood and the section of Macalester-Groveland south of St. Clair. 

Funding for Highland Block Nurse Program is provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Ramsey County, the City of St. Paul, and Title III (federal funding). We also serve the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood south of St. Clair Ave. and east to Lexington Parkway. We are part of the Living At Home Network.

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