Are worries about your elderly parent or relative making it safely to medical appointments — let alone helping them to understand the deluge of medical terminology which could potentially confuse them and even lead to incorrect medical decisions being made – giving you the winter shivers? Put your mind at ease.
Washtenaw County has new services geared for senior citizens thanks to the Jewish Families Services (JFS) of Washtenaw County. Last year JFS launched the Patient Partners program to assist in making certain that the older patient is getting the most out of his or her doctors’ appointments.
Abigail R. Lawrence-Jacobson, M.S.W., Ph.D, Director of Older Adult Services for JFS emphasizes the importance of having trained volunteers assisting patients. “Our volunteers’ skills are in making sure that patients’ questions are asked and answered thoroughly, and that the patients can understand and remember afterwards what happened at the medical appointment so they can make the best use of their medical care. The volunteers also provide a thorough written summary of what transpired so that patients can share it with family members (e.g., adult children who are involved in their care but live far away or can’t attend the appointment in person) or simply keep for themselves to remind them, “Oh yes, that’s why my medication dosage increased,” or “That’s why I need to have this blood test on this date…” ”
The volunteers, which currently number approximately 30, accompany the patients on multiple medical appointments including primary care, podiatry, neurology, ophthalmology, physical and medical rehab, as well as to procedures including colonoscopies, biopsies, and pain clinic treatments to name a few.
If you are concerned that the volunteers might not be ready for such tasks, put the worries aside. According to Lawrence-Jacobson “Volunteers complete a rigorous two-full-days training on topics including health conditions of older adults, medical lingo, communication skills, ethics and confidentiality, etc. They also have the opportunity to shadow an experienced Patient Partner if they so choose.”
Patient Partner services are $20 per appointment but JFS is willing to work with families especially in these very dire recessionary times in Michigan. There is a sliding fee for patients who cannot afford to pay the entire amount. Lawrence-Jacobson stresses, “As with all JFS services, we never turn anyone away for inability to pay.” Currently those services are limited to Washtenaw County.
Want to volunteer? If you have the following qualifications then you might just be the person they need:
- Patience with older adults,
- Excellent communication skills,
- A positive attitude toward the medical community,
- Some experience with either family care giving or work experience in a helping profession (e.g., nursing, physical therapy, social work, etc.),
- Will need to pass a criminal background check.
If you want more information about Patient Partners or JFS’ other older adult services contact them at 734-769-0209 or [email protected] and examine their services online: http://www.jfsannarbor.org/services/older-adult/.