Donna is a go-getter. She’s curious and motivated to learn new things. She speaks several languages and has lots of diverse interests. When her son was young, the single mom coached his soccer team and participated in 25-mile open road bike rides with him. She spent a rewarding 40-year medical career at some of Chicago’s biggest hospitals working as a pharmacy tech, auditing medical records, negotiating purchasing contracts, supporting finance teams, and serving on special safety and investigational drug committees to establish new hospital protocols.
Retirement meant more time with her son, a move to suburban Oak Lawn, and lots of short getaways to visit small towns in Michigan and Wisconsin. Then six years ago Donna’s health needs changed overnight as a result of much-needed spine surgery. Before the surgery, she assumed she would spend recovery time in the hospital and a rehabilitation center and then simply go home, bounce back, and resume her busy life. So she didn’t take much notice when a social worker at the rehab mentioned a community care worker would visit her at home to make sure she was safe and getting along well on her own. After all, she was an active 70-year-old who felt like a 20-year-old on a good day.
Melissa, Pathlights’ care coordinator, was waiting for Donna the day she came home from rehab by ambulance. Donna looks back to that day now and says she was “in a state of denial” about how she would manage alone on the third floor of a condo building. “I had no idea how much help I truly needed. I was really at my lowest point trying to use a walker with a permanently dislocated shoulder and arthritis that was getting worse every day. Everything was hard to do.”
Donna says Melissa was realistic and tactful. She completed a thorough evaluation and told Donna about available resources she was qualified to receive. “She was the helping voice and helping hand I didn’t know I needed,” she says. “She guided me with respect and dignity so I could make my own decisions.”
Within a week, Donna had someone at her home to help her. She received some hours of assistance with laundry, and cleaning – critical services that made it possible for her to get out of bed safely and start to heal. That connection with Pathlights continues today. She calls Melissa when a new challenge comes up. “This economy has been horrid for fixed income folks like me,” says Donna. “I called Melissa recently because my incontinence supply costs were starting to impact my monthly budget. She advised me that I may be eligible for assistance with these costs and an application was submitted which saved me over $150 a month.” Donna adds that Melissa may not have all the answers but, “she listens to me and has lots of different solutions and choices available. Through the years she has provided me with so much assistance – all without making me feel helpless, foolish, or silly. She’s a keeper.”
Donna sends thankful notes to Pathlights regularly as she feels it is important to appreciate people who really make a difference. She tells others who are aging in place that it’s beneficial to accept community support. “The helpers are out there. You are only as alone as you are sitting in your house. Make the first move. Pick up the phone, call community resources, and find out what you might be eligible for.”
Are you getting ready to leave the hospital or rehab? Pathlights’ Choices for Care Program is aimed at decreasing the chances of older adults being re-admitted to hospitals and helps ensure proper services are in place following discharge from a hospital or rehabilitation stay. Our trained professionals conduct exit screenings and assessments within three local hospital systems and area nursing facilities to help patients understand their options for home and community-based services. For details, call us at 708.361.0219.