Community Stories

How Our Patient Advocates Make a Difference

November 28, 2023

This year, Heart2Heart hired two patient advocates — Maria Purgavie and Shirley Ramos. 

Since July, they became responsible for connecting with seniors who have asked for help with meals through the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) in Broward County. 

Shirley and Maria visit the seniors in their homes to learn about their needs and conduct detailed referral assessments. Their primary goal is to determine if these seniors qualify for the federally funded meal delivery program. 

However, each visit is an opportunity to provide more resources to the seniors they meet. We wanted to share a few of these stories, out of the dozens of seniors Maria and Shirley meet each week.

We’ve changed the names of the seniors to protect their privacy. 

Helping Elena navigate life in a hotel 

Elena is 93 and has been living at an Extended Stay hotel for more than three years.

She first came to the Tamarac hotel from Miami when her brother was dying. She wanted to stay with him in a hospital during his final days. 

She never left.

“God brought me here, and I stayed,” Elena said. 

That’s partly because she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. While strong and mobile for her age, she has no family or friends to help her. 

Years ago, Elena was hit by a car on U.S. 441. Now, she’s too scared to walk across the street. So she takes an Uber every time she needs to cross the street to go shopping. This eats up her precious funds.

It also makes it difficult to buy all of the items she needs. 

Shirley qualified Elena for the meal delivery program. She also connected her with a volunteer who delivered groceries and bottled water, which is heavy and hard for her to carry with her arthritis. 

In her youth, Elena worked in the music industry in the ‘70s, playing piano and guitar. Because her career kept her on the road, she gave her children up for adoption.

Later, when she settled down, she became a preschool teacher. Even at 93, she wishes she could still teach. 

Guiding Olive through tricky paperwork

Olive has a hard time walking around her home, due to a disability. She needed help qualifying for in-home skilled nursing care — a service that is administered through the ADRC. 

Maria connected with Olive to help her through that process. She waited on hold with her for 45 minutes, getting to the right people to collect the right paperwork. 

One of the forms had to be signed by a doctor. Olive couldn’t make that quick errand herself. So she called Maria when the forms came in the mail. 

Maria delivered the forms to the doctor’s office, waited for them to be filled out, and then brought them back to Olive, packaged and ready to be sent off. 

Two weeks later, ADRC called Olive to let her know she was approved for 20 hours of in-home nursing care per week.

Olive told us that she trusted Heart2Heart more than her own insurance. 

Many seniors are blessed with family members who can drive them to appointments and help them navigate a complicated healthcare system. 

Unfortunately, Olive lost her son to a drowning accident two years ago. She was grateful Maria stepped into help.

Helping Reva battle dementia 

Reva also had a child who died — a daughter who lost a battle with cancer two years ago. Another daughter lives in Chicago. 

And she has a son who lives locally and visits every Saturday, without fail. 

Reva repeated that detail to Shirley several times. She told her over and over what a sweetheart her son was to visit so often. She kept on telling her the names of her twin granddaughters. 

She would cry in between the retelling of each story.

Along with depression and hallucinations, Reva suffers from dementia. She’s still grieving for her daughter. 

She told Shirley that she’s hungry. Her son brings her groceries and refills her medication every week. But sometimes dementia causes seniors to lose the steps between being hungry and cooking food. 

Reva used to receive delivered meals from ADRC. Shirley helped her get back into the program. 

She also checks on her with regular calls, just to see how she’s doing. 

Keeping Richard company

Maria does the same with a man she met at a care center named Richard.

Richard doesn’t need any special care or help. He just likes to talk, and he’s hard-of-hearing so he speaks very loudly. 

Sometimes he calls Maria in the evening, and they talk while she’s cooking dinner. 

Our patient advocates aren’t the only ones who help the seniors in our community. 

Volunteers deliver necessities to seniors like Elena, make weekly calls to people like Richard and visit the homes of lonely seniors like Olive and Reva. 

Explore Heart2Heart’s outreach opportunities and become a volunteer! 

Join the Team!

Becoming a Heart2Heart volunteer means that you are dedicated to serving the aging community. It means you want to connect in a meaningful way to a specific individual or to several people. It means you are committed to a consistent amount of time per month – whether that’s several hours a week or just a few hours per month.

Heart2Heart volunteers must be background checked and trained. Our training can be completed from your home on your computer or device, through the online Volunteer Portal. We run fingerprints in our office in Fort Lauderdale, and you can schedule an appointment with us after you finish the training.

The first step is to create an account on our Volunteer Portal. To get started, click here!

Read more …

The Glamorous Stories of a 1940s Broadway Dancer

The Glamorous Stories of a 1940s Broadway Dancer

Lillian Flowers is 98. She lives alone in Fort Lauderdale.

She used to dance on Broadway.

While volunteer Steve Retford is helping her get services she needs, he gets a front row seat to glamorous stories from Broadway, filled with famous theater producers, celebrities (she dated Dean Martin briefly), and traveling through a life of show biz.

We extended his front row seat so you can listen to Lillian’s stories too.

Heart2Heart Welcomes New Staff — in a New Space!

Heart2Heart Welcomes New Staff — in a New Space!

In case you haven’t met them in person yet, we introduced the new additions to our team:

– Rosevel “Rosie” Castro, outreach coordinator
– Peighton Stone, dietician and intern with us from Nova Southeastern University for eight weeks

Some of our team got new roles, too. Check out all the details about that — and our new office!