We were featured in MLive/The Ann Arbor News:
New Patient Partners program provides volunteers for Washtenaw County senior citizens to get to appointments
by Jo Mathis | The Ann Arbor News
Tuesday June 16, 2009, 2:22 PM
When Don Arvidson was scheduled for an endoscopy recently, he began to worry not about the procedure, but about who would accompany him to the hospital, stay there with him, and help him home.
He couldn’t do it alone on hospital orders.
“My family is in California,” said Arvidson, an Ypsilanti resident who is disabled due to heart conditions. “And basically most of my peers are deceased.”
“I was looking at having to cancel the appointment.”
Luckily, he learned about Patient Partners, a new program run by Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County. One of only a handful of such programs in the country, Patient Partners is available to any person in Washtenaw County who is 65 or older and needs a trained volunteer to accompany him or her to a doctor or dentist appointment or medical procedure.
Abbie Lawrence-Jacobson, director of Older Adult Services for Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County came up with the idea about a year and a half ago after she accompanied her father to the hospital.
“I thought about all the many people aging alone, without others to be their eyes and ears in a medical setting,” said Lawrence-Jacobson, noting that some people can’t afford to hire a home health care worker to go to these appointments, and in other cases family members can’t take time off work to do so.
The volunteer meets with the client prior to the medical appointment to establish rapport and list the concerns the client wants to discuss with the doctor and make a list of all his or her medications.
At the appointment, the volunteer takes notes on the doctor’s comments and instructions for follow-up appointments or tests; reminds the patient to share concerns; requests translation of medical jargon to layman’s terms; and confirms that the patient understands the questions asked by doctors. Clients are then given a medical appointment summary to share with care givers.
When volunteer Irene Adler of Ann Arbor, a retired nurse, learned that Arvidson needed someone to take him to his procedure, she agreed, and found it rewarding. “What better way to use my skills than to comfort, and understand, and be there as an advocate for people?” she said. “I enjoyed the whole experience.”
Most clients are 65 and older, but some younger patients with geriatric health issues face similar challenges, including isolation and disability, and are eligible for the program, said Lawrence-Jacobson.
The cost to the patient is $15 or less, with an additional $5 if Jewish Family Services provides transportation as well. The program is partly funded by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, with the remainder coming from Jewish Family Services.
The next round of volunteer training will be held in the fall of 2009.
MORE INFORMATION• To schedule a Patient Partner for a loved one or find out more, call 734-769-0209.