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Sisters Discover a "Godsend"

For 175 years, the Oblate Sisters of Providence have devoted themselves to teaching, doing pastoral work, and taking care of one another. The elderly members of the order could rely on their younger sisters to drive them to doctor's appointments, fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy, or to transport them for dialysis. But with fewer young women entering the religious order of African American nuns based in Catonsville, the nuns have found it increasingly more difficult to care for their frail, aging sisters.

"We needed more care," explains Sister Ricardo Maddox, vicar general of the order, where the nuns range in age from 24 to 95. The majority are older than 55.

Sisters Mary Chineworth and Magdala Gilbert with Selby
Photo by Steven Rubin
Just over a year ago the Oblate Sisters approached Hopkins ElderPlus with a proposal: Could interested sisters participate in the program even though the convent was outside ElderPlus' service area?" ElderPlus administrators garnered the proper approval from the state of Maryland and agreed to take them on. To date, 25 of the 70 nuns at the Catonsville convent have volunteered to participate in the program.

An ElderPlus van transports participants from the convent to the day health center at Bayview and then home each day. Sisters who need transportation to doctor's appointments — formerly a major source of worry and expense for Sister Ricardo — now rely on ElderPlus to get them where they need to go. "That truly is a godsend," Sister Ricardo says. "It's definitely relieved me of an awful lot."

Medicare and Medicaid fund the sisters' ElderPlus care, as with other participants. In return, the sisters receive all the same services, with one notable addition: For sisters too frail to travel to the day health center, there is a health unit at the convent staffed around-the-clock with an ElderPlus home care nurse and certified geriatric assistants, says ElderPlus outreach coordinator Theodora Peters.

It hasn't always been easy for the sisters to accept the help they are now receiving through ElderPlus, but the care is making all the difference in the world, says Sister Ricardo. "God helps those who help themselves," she says. "This is the way He means that. When we need more help, we seek it." — MB

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