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!