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10/14/20

A Caring Phone Call, and a Kind Ear, Helped This Member at Just the Right Moment

Older Americans are proud and resilient. For decades they’ve met adversity and tamed it.

It’s a powerful legacy. It’s a lot to live up to. And, it’s not always reality.

That sense of pride can make it hard for seniors to ask for help when life goes sideways – due to their health, the economy, or social connections. Health challenges are a natural part of aging, but barriers to social determinants of health, like loneliness and social isolation can make chronic conditions worse, diminishing quality of life, worsening health outcomes, and increasing mortality.

More than a quarter of Americans live alone. And, the senior population, one of the groups at highest risk for social isolation and loneliness, is growing as baby boomers age and people live longer.

Humana at Home care manager Paige H. found just that situation when she contacted Carol, a member from Texas, while checking on members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paige introduced herself, explained she was calling on behalf of Humana, and asked Carol if she had time to talk. With great hesitation, Carol said, “”Why are you calling?”

Paige explained how she and her colleagues had shifted their focus during the pandemic, proactively calling members to see if they could help them through this difficult time.

Paige said, “Her exact words to me at that point were, ‘I’m not sure what an insurance company can help me with, but ok.’”

Carol slowly warmed to the conversation, and they talked about her health concerns, especially a recent diagnosis of lymphoma. She had a new primary care doctor, and she admitted feeling overwhelmed, emotionally and financially.

She went on to share that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was behind on her car payments and thought her car “would be gone soon.” She was behind on her electric bill and feared that her power would be shut off. She was unable to go to the grocery store because of the pain and swelling from the lymphoma. And, she acknowledged that she couldn’t afford the groceries anyway.

Carol was using a local food bank and said she had “plenty” of food, but she was worried that it would all be ruined if her electricity were shut off.

Paige has heard these stories before, and she provided a kind ear and the emotional support that Carol needed. She let her know that she was there to help and could connect Carol with resources for financial guidance, food, and help getting transportation to her appointments.

Carol was grateful, repeating, “Thank you, you just don’t understand.”

Paige switched gears to check on Carol’s mental and emotional health.

Carol said she had been proud of herself because up until this point she had remained strong and able to manage her sadness and depression. She admitted feeling “embarrassed” because she just couldn’t manage any longer, and she was slowly starting to find herself more and more overwhelmed and depressed.

Paige said, “We talked together. We even cried together during the call. I told her of Humana at Home’s behavioral health team and that they could help her manage and deal with her feelings, and she agreed. I wasn’t able to make the connection that day, because she wanted to compose herself and talk to them another day. She didn’t want to be emotional on the phone.”

Paige e-mailed the Humana at Home behavioral health referral team, available to qualified Humana at Home members. She cited the urgent need and scheduled a follow-up call, letting Carol know she would soon receive a call to connect her with Humana’s behavioral health professionals. Paige also made sure Carol had the number for telemedicine resources and the nurse call-back number.

“She was so thankful,” Paige said. “I just wanted her to know that she’s not alone. Before ending the call, Carol said, ‘You know, I almost didn’t answer the phone because I thought you were somebody telling me bad news. I am so glad I did. Thank you for helping and just caring about me, Paige.’”

She thanked Paige again and said, “Knowing you care is more than anything else you could have done.”

Astronauts to offer unique insight on fighting loneliness

Loneliness and social isolation can have devastating impacts on a person’s health.

Humana, in coordination with the Coalition to End Social Isolation & Loneliness, is sponsoring the Far from Alone campaign to increase public awareness of the dangers.

To highlight the issues, Humana and USA Today Storytellers Projects are presenting a virtual night of live storytelling, featuring astronauts and other experts sharing best practices for remaining resilient and building good habits.

Visit the Storytellers Project Facebook page or YouTube channel at 8 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 21 to watch live or stream the recording afterwards.


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