The Power of Dignity

Looking in the mirror and feeling empowered

Serious injury or illness often evokes feelings of helplessness, isolation and loss of independence. When faced with the challenges of aging, sickness and recovery, maintaining one’s dignity can keep the spirit healthy.

Marilyn, an 80-year-old widow, had many health issues, lived alone and was becoming a hoarder. Overwhelmed by life’s recent circumstances, her expressive eyes showed a range of emotions. Marilyn missed her husband, was frail and struggled to maintain her dignity.

Elderplan/HomeFirst, the health plans that are participating agencies of MJHS Health System, was contacted. A few months after that crucial phone call, Marilyn walked with confidence to the mirror. Her apartment was tastefully decluttered. Her health was greatly improved. “All of this,” she proudly gestured around her while applying lipstick, “is because of the good people at Elderplan/HomeFirst.”

Dignity matters, especially for those who are medically and socially vulnerable. For example, members like Marilyn work with a dedicated care manager. There are in-home visits from a nurse. Healthy recipes, community activities, exercises and so much more are recommended. There is also phone support, because sometimes members just want to chat.

“We strive to keep members as active and connected to their communities as possible — that’s so important,” says Joe, who has been with Elderplan/HomeFirst for nearly 20 years. “Maintaining or restoring self-worth and control is directly connected to being in a safe living environment.”

Joe remembers David, a 90-year-old member who was unwilling to sacrifice the habits that defined him. It is, after all, the little things that make us who we are.

“David was particular. He was proud to keep his home neat, his clothes ironed and his beard perfectly groomed. After surgery, he couldn’t even bathe. He felt ashamed, like he had lost himself.”

An Elderplan/HomeFirst care manager worked with David and his family to keep him safe in his home and, just as importantly, provide peace of mind. A medical plan with realistic goals was created. His home was tidied. His clothes were ironed. And yes, his beard was perfectly groomed. David felt like himself again. And his care team beamed with pride.

“It can be easy to forget that people like Marilyn and David were once young — they’ve had careers, raised families, experienced more than most and are still very dynamic personalities,” says Joe. “My colleagues and I make sure the Marilyns and Davids of New York aren’t left on the sidelines. They deserve to feel proud of who they once were and are today.”

“Growing older is not always an easy transition,” says Joe. “But it can be so much better when a thoughtful support system like Elderplan/HomeFirst empowers you to be your best self.”

Some information was changed to protect member privacy.

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