BARBARA GAIGER has been doing parish nursing for 10 years at her home parish, Holy Trinity Church in Thornhill, Ont. But, she only learned last year that her work had an official title. Initially, she was involved with the parish's lay visiting program, but since her educational background, in addition to nursing, included specialized study in gerontology, she decided to find a way to work more closely with senior parishioners.
Seniors "didn't get the same attention they do now" she said. Ten years ago, Mrs. Gaiger set out to change that in her own parish.
In 1988, Mrs. Gaiger submitted a proposal to Faith In Action, an Anglican Appeal campaign in the Diocese of Toronto. Her idea to work on health awareness for seniors was accepted.
"At first, it was viewed as a sort of enhanced lay visitor program," explained Mrs. Gaiger, who often brings along dog Emma to put patients at ease. "I started matching people with similar interests and backgrounds, rather than just going down a list and throwing two people together."
From there, the idea blossomed. Lay visitors were asking for education programs to improve the quality of their visits. Family members were asking for advice in caring for their aging relatives. …