Peggy Cooper, Erika Direnzo, Lorraine Follensbee, and Anne Harms

There Was an Angel on My Doorstep


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Dave Nelson

APD’s Elder Friend Program

In the year 2050, the population aged 65 and older is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its figure of 43.1 in 2012.

That certainly is a mind boggling figure, but Upper Valley residents are in luck: Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon intends to be right at the heart of the situation, reaching out with a loving hand.

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APD’s Elder Friends Volunteer Program has been launched under the direction of Margaret (Peggy) Cooper, who for the last five years has served as the hospital’s community relations and volunteer services coordinator. For those frail elders in the Upper Valley region who are often living alone and clinging desperately to their independence in their beloved homes, an angel does arrive at their doorstep.

Hartford resident Lorraine Follensbee is 86 years old and serves as a perfect example of how the Elder Volunteer Program can bring so much joy and comfort simply by caring enough to make a difference.

By her own admission, Lorriane’s life was not the easiest journey to navigate and was often filled with pain. She was struck down by polio in 1953. Lorraine survived that horrible disease, but it left her wheelchair-bound. However, despite that obstacle, she went on to give birth to two sons and forged full-speed ahead.

“I feel that I have always been able to handle adversity and always remained independent,” Lorraine said. “This Elder Friend Program is such a beautiful thing and gives me so much comfort. Sometimes even the doctor comes right here to my home, but I especially look forward to my weekly visit from Anne.”

Lorraine was referring to her visiting angel by the name of Anne Harms, who lives at the Quail Hollow Senior Living Community in West Lebanon. A classic case of seniors helping seniors.

“I have always taken part in volunteer programs, especially through my church,” Anne explained. “My husband was a Pastor and I consider this type of volunteering as a pastoral experience. I have also volunteered in hospital settings and feel very comfortable in that environment. Through the Elder Friend Program, Lorraine and I have developed such a rapport and have established a special bond.”

The relationship between the two has blossomed, and often it is difficult to judge who enjoys the weekly visits more.

“When Anne arrives we just sit and talk for hours. It means so much because I am able to just let go and be myself. Sometimes we get silly and have a giggling fit. We have so much fun and have a relationship that’s hard to duplicate.”

As beneficial as the home visits are from the Elder Friend Program, the organization goes far above that one aspect. It encompasses a far-reaching team approach from APD, as Lebanon resident Erika Direnzo, a social worker based at the hospital, explains.

“In 2012, Dr. Lisa Furmanski formed the senior care team, which includes a care coordinator, social worker, and nurse practitioner. Since then, a second geriatrician, Dr. Susannah Clark, has joined to the team,” she said. “We use a multidisciplinary approach to address the chronic medical needs of frail elders while paying close attention to their quality of life. Our geriatricians see elders in their office, but also provide primary care in the home setting for eligible patients, along with our nurse practitioner and social worker.”

Peggy Cooper has been with the program since day one and reflects back while looking forward.

“The Elder Friend Program has been incredibly rewarding for me, because it has made a difference in our patients’ lives. I am very proud of my volunteers and the work they do and look forward to growing the program with our community,” she said.

How much impact does this program have on all involved? Difficult to measure exactly, but Erika offered one quote that says it all.

“Never underestimate the positive influence one supportive person can have on another.”

You can become a part of the Angel contingent (wings optional) making home visits by contacting Peggy Cooper at (603) 448-7456 or mailto:cooperm@apdmh.org.

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