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Support and kindness gives hope during challenging times

Answering the call

Being dependent on oxygen means Mary* is already working twice as hard at the regular activities we all do every day. Getting dressed and preparing meals is not easy for her, but she keeps fighting through those everyday struggles so that she can be independent in her own home.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to disrupt Mary’s independence. With a chronic respiratory illness, she knew she was especially vulnerable to the virus. Going out to the stores to stock up wasn’t an option for her, and she saw her supply of basic items dwindling. She had no idea how she was going to be able to get these essentials.

"When Mary came to me with her concerns, she was at a really low point," said Dina Cheney, her Care Manager. "She's usually so upbeat and positive, so seeing her like this, I knew she was desperate for help."

As a member of the Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) program, Mary‘s Care Manager helps her get the assistance she needs so she can continue to live independently. In this case, the assistance she needed most wasn’t just supplies; it was the reassurance of knowing that someone would be there for her.

"I knew I needed to give her back a little bit of that feeling of security that the pandemic had taken away from her. So I went out and bought a few things, grabbed some other items from my pantry, and dropped them right off to her," Dina said.

"When I saw Dina get out of her car and bring those grocery bags up to my doorstep, I felt like I wasn’t alone in all of this," said Mary. "I know I’ve always believed in being a kind person. It’s such a blessing to know someone is looking out for me!"

Delivering compassion

John* struggled to find the right place to call home – somewhere that would meet his needs and fit his budget. That’s why he was especially happy to settle into his new apartment in Camden. For over a year, Jamie Lewis, a Care Manager at Horizon NJ Health, worked with John to help him manage chronic conditions that affected his ability to perform many of the activities of daily living. He was finally able to enjoy the simple comforts of his new home.

"I could tell how excited he was about it," said Jamie. "He couldn’t wait to show it off."

John's health and financial situation made it challenging to take care of things like grocery shopping, but local food resources helped him get what he needed. When the pandemic struck, John had a hard time accessing the resources that normally helped him. COVID-19 had temporarily left local organizations unable to reach the community members that relied on them.

“When I checked in to see how all of this was impacting him, he was worried and anxious. After all he’s been through to stay independent, I couldn’t let him down,” Jamie said.

Jamie gathered essential supplies from her church’s food pantry and bought fresh items from the grocery store, delivering them right to his door. She noticed during a previous visit that John’s new home had a refrigerator and a microwave but not a full kitchen. She made sure to add microwavable food to his care package so he would have some hot meals.

“John had a huge smile on his face when I brought him the groceries. Times like this - people helping people – have a real impact on a person’s life,” Jamie said. “Even though it seemed like a small act, it eased his mind, and he could relax knowing he had food.”

It made a world of difference for John to know that Jamie was there for him. “I was almost out of food, and there was nowhere to turn,” he said. “I had no idea how I was going to make it through the next couple of weeks. When Jamie just showed up with all those groceries, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and for the first time, I felt like everything was going to be ok.”

“Sometimes I feel like our members aren’t given enough compassion from the world around them,” Jamie said.

The 3 H’s: Hope, help and health

Facing the challenges of a pandemic are incredibly stressful for most of us. Now imagine facing those challenges if English isn’t your first language and you’re suffering from chronic conditions that leave you struggling to take care of basic needs. This was Christina’s* reality — she was running low on groceries and was not physically well enough to go out for supplies.

Christina’s difficulties speaking and understanding English sometimes left her feeling alone, and with no family living nearby, it was easy for her to feel cut off from the world. The social distancing required to flatten the curve of COVID-19 only increased her feelings of isolation.

“She was feeling hopeless, so we gave her hope,” said Care Manager Sophia White. “Christina doesn’t have it easy, but she gets up every single day and just keeps going – I have so much respect for that.”

Sophia knew that the best way to bridge the language barrier between them was the universal language we all share: kindness. She bought two weeks’ worth of groceries and delivered them to Christina’s apartment.

“I knew she was feeling helpless, so I wanted to reassure her,” Sophia said. “Her neighbor is bilingual, so I gave him my number and asked him to check in on her, and to call me if Christina needs anything.”

“La ayuda de Sophia me tranquilizó. Ahora sé que no estoy solo,” said Christina. “Sophia’s help put my mind at ease. Now I know I’m not alone.”