University

Healthy Grandparents Program provides physicals and school supplies

Since its inception 18 years ago, the College of Nursing’s Healthy Grandparents Program has supported over 450 grandparents in the Augusta area who are raising their grandchildren. The program continued this tradition of service recently by hosting physicals for children in the program and an event providing back-to-school kits.

On July 20 and 21, nurse practitioner students provided health exams to the children in the Healthy Grandparents Program. Children received vision and hearing screenings, developmental and oral health risk assessments and educational materials. Children even participated in a hands-on tooth brushing and oral health educational session with dental hygiene students.

Additionally, each child received a bag containing age-appropriate educational health literature, oral health promotion items—toothbrushes, toothpaste, tooth brush timers and dental floss—and new socks to start the school year. The event also provided nutritious snacks as well as donated books and clothing.

For busy grandparents like Charlene Dennis having a range of health exams in a single place is invaluable. Dennis, who is new to the program, said the event allows the children to experience something positive while having their health care needs met. “They treat the kids like they’re special,” she said. “It’s not only good for me, it’s good for the kids. I really appreciate everything they do.”

“Our goal is to provide family-centered care to the children and grandparents as well as an exceptional learning environment for the family and pediatric nurse practitioner students,” said Dr. Mary Lou Davis, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and director of the Healthy Grandparents Program. “With the emphasis being on child health promotion, the clinic also meets course objectives for nursing students and dental hygiene students. The quote ‘it takes a village’ comes to mind. In our clinic we can say, ‘It takes a multidisciplinary village to support the children and grandparents!’”

The clinic is made possible by volunteers from the College of Nursing including faculty, support staff and nursing students from various programs as well as dental hygiene students in the College of Allied Health Sciences. Individuals in the community, including nurse practitioners and registered nurses, also volunteer at the clinic.

A week later, the community service continued at an event that provided back-to-school kits, where 122 backpacks were received by grandparents. On July 27 and 28, grandparents and children were able to select from a cornucopia of stylish backpacks full of school supplies. Each backpack was newly purchased, and the school supplies were tailored to the child’s grade level. Those in the first year of the program are guaranteed a backpack, even if they didn’t make it to the event, said Mike Patton, program coordinator and social worker for the program.

In addition to these events, the Healthy Grandparents program provides regular support for both the grandparents and the children in the program. This includes monthly support groups, monthly home visits from a nurse focused on grandparent health and access to resources such as after-school programs and summer camps.

Judy Pinckney, a grandparent of five and 13-year veteran of the program, said the program has allowed her to connect with other grandparents in similar situations, and she looks forward to the monthly support groups. “It’s wonderful,” Pinckney said. “Having this program has been tremendously helpful.”

About the author

Sara Carney