East Region Community Health Nurse Michele Brezniak and Dietitian Shannon Haynes went to a Brooklyn senior housing complex to show residents how to make healthy smoothies and conduct blood pressure screenings. Their presence ended up potentially saving a life. Brezniak and Haynes were at the Salem Village Senior Housing for a new East Region Community Health Initiative called Cardiac Health Snack and Learn on March 18. They were there to teach residents about heart-healthy eating, and show them how to make smoothies and avocado hummus. Brezniak offered blood pressure checks to the attendees throughout the program. As she was getting ready to pack up, Brezniak was approached by a woman who cares for a resident of the complex.
“The aide said the resident wasn’t feeling well and was having trouble with her blood pressure lately but she doesn’t have her own cuff to check at home,” Brezniak said. “They asked if I would go check so I went over to her apartment since she wasn’t very mobile.”
The woman was feeling dizzy and was clammy and cool to the touch. Brezniak took her pressure twice, and both times the systolic number was over 190. “Typically, we recommend anything over 180 seek medical attention immediately,” she said.
The woman was “able to give her cardiologist the results in real time,” Brezniak said. “She had some medication adjustments, and is now feeling better and home recovering.”
Shoshana Merced, resident services coordinator at Salem Village, said, “I am extremely grateful that Michele was here and was able to respond to our resident. We are following up with her on other services that are available and making sure she gets a blood pressure cuff to have at home.”
Merced said she had reached out to Brezniak looking for programming for their residents. Access Community Action Agency operates Salem Village and three other facilities. The Snack and Learn program will take place at the other locations as well this spring.
“I wanted to bring programs to our residents, who are low income, that would be interesting and beneficial to them,” she said. “But I also want them to know what kinds of services they can access through Hartford HealthCare.”
Brezniak runs pop-up screening clinics at community meal centers in Norwich and Willimantic, and she said she was pleased to create a program along with Haynes that they could bring to residential complexes that offer basic health screening and tips for healthier living.
“We have such a diverse population across the East Region,” she said. “There are underserved people across the region, and we are focused on ensuring equity and access to care. Being able to partner with other organizations, like Access, allows us to go into the communities and give them the tools they need. We can get them what they need and meet them where they are.”
Showing residents how to make a basic smoothie with healthy ingredients, and then ways they can change things up with different fruits and vegetables, nut-based milks, even adding Ensure to up their daily protein, gives them a way to make overall improvements to their diets.
“Food is medicine,” Brezniak said, “especially for aging populations. The more nutrients they get, the better.”