Perspective of a Patient Partner
By Suzi Abrams, RN – Samost JFCS
I met this client, when I first started working at JFCS just last year. I was shadowing nurse Judi for the day. We walked into the client’s apartment, and she was more than excited to see not one, but two people, from JFCS. While each and every client has a story, this particular woman really affected me.
Upon walking into her apartment, there was garbage everywhere. There were piles of papers – piles on top of piles – on her kitchen table and cabinets. Yet, there was also this first-class artwork on the walls, and striking sculptures on display. I asked her about the art, and she proudly stated that she had done it all. She showed me pictures of her daughter and her two grandchildren. She told me that her daughter had left suddenly at the age of 17, and went to California, and only visits on occasion. She never sees anyone; she was very alone. Of course, right away my wheels were spinning. I thought she would be perfect for my new program, Patient Partners.
Fast forward a year, and Patient Partners is becoming established in our community and serving many people, who are alone and desperately in need of patient advocacy. Still this one particular client was living very alone. Slowly over the last year, dementia had taken a large part of her independence. She used to go to meals at the Katz JCC. Now that is too much of a hardship, considering that she doesn’t know Tuesday from Wednesday.
She used to anticipate our JFCS clinicians coming to her for therapy and med box refills; you can now find her any day of the week sitting in her apartment all alone, just staring at the television drinking a cup coffee, not knowing what time of day it is.
Patient Partners became involved when we required a volunteer to assist our client to see her neurologist to obtain refills on her medications. I went over to do an assessemtn, and sat with this client in her apartment for two hours. I listened again as she told me the stories of her youth, over and over, the same stories.
Our ultimate goal for this client was to obtain her medications, and there was no way we were going to reach it, unless we physically got her to the doctor. We found a wonderful volunteer who was on board to deal with this challenge. The challenge now was for us to remind this client when the upcoming appointment was. She lives in an independent living facility, with no one to challenge her if she is going out, when she shouldn’t be. How was I going to do that if she honestly did not even rembenber that I was there the day before, for two hours.
Two days prior to the “event” I called the client every few hours, to remind her of this upcoming appointment. I would introduce myself on the phone, and finally she said, “The only Suzi I know is ‘If you knew Suzie, like I knew Suzie, oh, oh, oh, what a girl!!” She sang. I said that’s fine, that’s how I’m going to introduce myself like that from now on. This went on for the next two days, I sang each and every time I picked up the phone. And we achieved our goal of getting her to the doctor. Sometimes, being there in a big way can be as simple as singing a familiar song… It’s truly amazing how we relate and connect with our patients, in an effort to help them to help themselves. To find out how you can be a Patient Partner volunteer, email Suzi Abrams, RN, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 856-424-1333.