Nov 11, 2021 Hospital in Lakewood Extends Geriatric Care into Retirement Community

Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus treats seniors at SilverWoods, an independent-living retirement community in Toms River, New Jersey.

For area seniors, the James and Sharon Maida Geriatrics Institute is a medical mecca. Located at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus (MMCSC), it offers inpatient and outpatient geriatric services to those 65 and older. “We provide basically head-to-toe care,” explains Kaitlyn Errigo, AGNP-C, a nurse practitioner with the Institute.

Errigo partners with geriatric medicine physicians Jessica Israel, MD, and Abhijit Chatterjee, MD, along with another nurse practitioner, Melanie Vernacchia, APN, to make the Institute a virtual one-stop health care shop. “You can come in and have your blood work done, and if you need a radiology exam such as a chest X-ray or a CAT scan, we can take care of it right within our facilities,” Errigo says. Patients can also receive geriatric consultations (for example, to investigate possible causes of frequent falls), cognitive assessments and palliative care for chronic conditions such as cancer.

The high level of service reflects the Institute’s keen understanding of seniors’ needs. “A lot of patients rely on their families for transportation or support,” Errigo says. “We try to knock down the list of things they have to do.” Care begins with an assessment that’s more in-depth than may be possible within a typical 15-minute primary care appointment. “Patients really get a comprehensive examination,” Errigo says. “We focus on the whole person and their goals.”

Bringing Care to Seniors

Having served patients well on-site at MMCSC, the Institute recently decided to take its care to the next level and expand its offerings beyond hospital walls. As of February 2021, Errigo also sees patients at SilverWoods, an independent-living retirement community in Toms River.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, Errigo can be found at the SilverWoods Wellness Center providing a range of primary care with licensed practical nurse Anna Prochacki, LPN, SilverWoods’ Health Services Director. They may help residents who are suffering from problems such as insomnia, joint aches or difficulty swallowing; assist with management of chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension; or provide general geriatric consultations on-site.

“Patients who have their own primary care physician may just want another set of eyes on them,” Errigo says. “They want to have that connection because if they wake up on a Monday morning not feeling well and can’t get into their primary care physician’s office, they know I’m there on Tuesday. I can see them and get them that antibiotic or whatever they may need.” When necessary, she schedules residents for services such as on- or off-site physical therapy or connects them with a social worker.

Comforting Presence

One SilverWoods resident who is glad for Errigo’s arrival is 79-year-old Mittie DeShields. She first met Errigo in 2019, when Errigo gave a presentation to the SilverWoods community about plans for Institute services there. “I was so impressed with Kaitlyn’s genuine warmth and compassion for her patients,” Mittie says.

In January 2020, Mittie made a “getting to know you” appointment with Errigo at the Institute. “ When she entered the exam room, Kaitlyn had such a cheerful greeting that she immediately put me right at ease,” Mittie remembers. “Kaitlyn was just so comforting with her attitude, disposition and personality. She listened to me so intently, it was like she was holding on to every word I was saying. And she showed such an understanding for what I was experiencing.” When COVID-19 temporarily halted Errigo’s plans to practice part-time at SilverWoods, Mittie continued to see her regularly at the Institute.

Mittie eagerly signed on as one of Errigo’s first patients once Errigo was finally able to begin practicing at SilverWoods in February. “It’s so convenient for us here, and the Wellness Center is set up so it has everything needed to give us care,” Mittie says. “Lab technicians from Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus come here for routine blood work so we don’t have to go out.”

Errigo recognizes how SilverWoods’ Wellness Center eases care. “It’s such a great environment,” she says. “It’s nicely decorated and has a really calming atmosphere. We also try to space out our appointments and schedule them appropriately so everyone can be seen and given the time they need.” Mittie says she’s better able to manage age-related conditions such as joint stiffness, arthritis and hypertension thanks to Errigo’s training and experience, which includes licensure as a registered nurse and additional master’s-level training to become a geriatric nurse practitioner. Errigo’s training gives her privileges in New Jersey to treat patients, order a wide variety of tests, make diagnoses, prescribe medications and formulate care plans. “She monitors me very well through lab work and X-rays, if needed, to keep my conditions under control,” says Mittie, who, with Errigo’s encouragement, attends a SilverWoods exercise program three times a week.

Prochacki says Errigo’s care helps keep residents independent in their own apartments. “Watching her has been an amazing experience for me as a nurse,” she says.

“I see residents being healthier, more on top of their physical and mental health needs and proactive and preventive,” says Katie Davis, MSW, Executive Director of SilverWoods. “I cannot speak highly enough of Kaitlyn and the team.”

Mittie says fellow residents share her happiness with Errigo’s presence. “Everyone is enthused about having these services available to us, and we’re equally or even more elated because Kaitlyn is just so special,” Mittie says. “Where we live, there is really so much to do and so many things that we can enjoy, and she wants us to make sure we are still able to enjoy them. She looks for the best medical solutions to keep us on our feet.”

To learn more about the James and Sharon Maida Geriatrics Institute at Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, call 732-886-4700.