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CAREMORE’S TOGETHERNESS PROGRAM AN INNOVATIVE WAY TO COMBAT SENIOR ISOLATION

 

CONNECTORS, social workers and volunteer associate phone pals came together June 7 to celebrate of the second anniversary of the CareMore Togetherness program with more than 100 members. Pictured: CareMore Health Chief Togetherness Officer Robin Caruso, LCSW (front row, center) and Togetherness team. Photos courtesy of CareMore Togetherness Program with permission

 

BY TAMMYE MCDUFF

In this high-tech society, where much of the social interaction is done online, loneliness has become a big concern for the elderly and the homebound. Modern life is making us lonelier, and recent research indicates that this may be the next biggest public health issue next to obesity and substance abuse.  

In a recent article from AgingInPlace.org it states that more than 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older are dealing with depression on some level, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI]. For some, these feelings of sadness and despair didn’t appear until later in life, when they were faced with a loss of independence or increased disability due to the aging process. 

CareMore has recognized this and has designed a program to combat senior loneliness.

On Friday, June 7, 2019, CareMore Health, Cerritos celebrated the second anniversary of its “Togetherness Program.” 

More than 60 seniors gathered to celebrate friendships made through the CareMore Health program. The Program is designed to address loneliness as a treatable condition by focusing on patients’ psychological, social and physical health. Members of the program were treated to a party, complete with paparazzi photos, good food and entertainment, all the while socializing with phone pals and connectors in person, many for the first time.

The Program has enrolled 1,000 CareMore patients, and through consistent phone and in-person outreach by Togetherness connectors, social workers, volunteer associate phone pals, and social events hosted at the CareMore Care Centers, it  has helped seniors and the homebound build meaningful connections with others to improve their health and quality of life.

“The issue of social isolation is especially pronounced in the senior population and has a detrimental impact on their health,” says Robin Caruso, LCSW, Chief Togetherness officer. 

“Through the program, our goals are to get patients more engaged with their health care, get them socially connected with others, and get them to exercise, even if it means getting out of the house and going for a walk.” 

Caruso helped attendees construct business cards, and much like a networking meeting, they were asked to exchange at least four business cards, with phone numbers, and engage in conversation to make new friends. 

The second hour featured “Laughter on Call” founded by comedian Dani Modisett.

LOC teaches family and caregivers how to deal with the aging process with dignity and laughter.  Modisett got the idea of Laughter on Call after seeing first-hand how her mother,  who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, seemed to benefit from comedy care. 

“A year ago, my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was getting the better of her, she was depressed, withdrawn and barely eating,” recalled Modisett,” I did the only thing I knew to do in dire circumstances, I called a comedian. She began working regularly with my mother and it changed the quality of her life.”

In two years, the Togetherness program has produced more than 21,800 phone calls and over 1,200 referrals to senior resources. Participation in exercise programs increased by 56.6% for the program’s participants compared to those not involved in the program and emergency room visits among enrolled participants decreased by 3.3%. 

HMG-LCCN was able to sit down and talk with Michael Saunders, who suffered a severe stroke in his mid fifties. Saunders has been connected with a young gentleman who calls on a weekly basis.

”I was going through some emotional struggles concerning housing, and I thought it would be a good connection. He really made me feel comfortable, by sharing stories about himself. My connector is a sounding board for what I am going through. He is more than a social worker, he has become a friend.”

CareMore president, Sachin H. Jain, M.D. told HMG-LCCN, “studies reveal that senior loneliness can increase a person’s risk of mortality more than air pollution, obesity and excessive alcohol use. It is more important than ever that we come together to exchange ideas and discuss solutions. We are excited by the outcomes of our Togetherness program and know that our model is the blueprint for how others in the industry can help improve the lives of our nation’s seniors.”

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Fiona & Conrad

All of these cities surrounding Cerritos, must re-evaluate their housing. Most cities, have a lot of new affordable housing for seniors, plus a lot of seniors are not downsizing, it’s just too expensive, and seniors have not produced families. Hoods are not experiencing any babies, housing stock is just too expensive. Wow……. All of a sudden have a lot of seniors in the city, Cerritos has almost 50% seniors in the cities. Councils are going to have to start rethinking senior activities, and start reciprocating with other senior centers. Also a lot of seniors are living longer, so their friends… Read more »