Bonnie Dietz, a resident at Birchwood Apartments in Greeley, Colorado, and Jane Schwarz, a National Church Residences Service Coordinator, pose for a photo after sharing their Care Guide success story.
By LANCE CRANMER firstname.lastname@example.org
GREELEY, Colorado – Bonnie Dietz and her friends often gather in the lounge at Birchwood Apartments to play cards.
One afternoon nearly three months ago, Jane Schwarz, the building’s National Church Residences Service Coordinator, stopped by the group to check in.
“The lounge is right outside of Jane’s office,” Bonnie said. “She came out and talked to me for a minute and she said, ‘when you get finished with your card game, I want to talk to you.’”
Jane had a question for Bonnie that, at the time, seemed odd. However, it turned out to be a question that may have saved Bonnie’s life.
“Out of the blue she said, ‘have you seen a urologist?’” Bonnie said. “I thought, what’s going on? I have had a bit of kidney problems along with my diabetes. I didn’t know Jane was interested in this. I knew she knew about it. But I puzzled over it for a while. I thought it must just be something she needs to know.”
What Jane was doing was utilizing Care Guide, National Church Residences’ innovative program designed to create better long-term health care outcomes for our residents.
“Sometimes I pull up Care Guide and just look at what I wrote last quarter and I ask residents if they’re still going through the same things. I ask them, ‘are you still doing this or that?’ Or ‘are you still on the same amounts of this medication?’ Or just, ‘how are you feeling?’” Jane said. “Then sometimes they start telling you more about other things.”
Because of Jane’s question, Bonnie decided it might be time for a visit to her primary care physician for a check-up.
“It did instigate me to call and make an appointment,” Bonnie said. “I went in to see him on Feb. 1. He said my diabetes is fine and my blood pressure is fine. They took some lab work. Then he called the next day and said get over to the nephrology clinic because you’ve got some problems.”
Bonnie went to see the nephrologist – a doctor that specializes in kidney care – and found out some shocking news.
“I went over there and they tested my kidneys,” she said. “They said I was down to 30 percent of my function. Anything below that and you have to start thinking about dialysis.”
Shortly after hearing this diagnosis, Bonnie made an appointment with Jane to help her figure out Colorado’s Food Tax Rebate paperwork.
“I thought I was in trouble. She said, ‘first, I want to talk to you,’” Jane said. “She asked me why I had asked her about kidney disease. I explained that it was one of the chronic conditions that we follow up on in Care Guide.”
“I didn’t know that the Service Coordinator did that,” Bonnie said. “She was so tickled that her question had spurred me to go and see the doctor.”
Bonnie’s primary care physician gave her some recommendations on how to help strengthen her kidneys and avoid having to start dialysis.
Bonnie, who is 83 years old, has lived in a few different senior citizen apartment complexes.
“I was a cook in hospitals and nursing homes when I lived in Kansas,” she said. “Before that we were farmers. We had a farm and raised a family here (in Colorado).”
After her husband of 33 years passed away, Bonnie chose to move into an apartment. It wasn’t until she arrived at Birchwood Apartments, however, that she was introduced to a Service Coordinator.
“It’s really helpful,” she said. “There’s so much paperwork and things anymore that she can help me with. I don’t have a car and have to find transportation. It really is a help to have her here. She provides workshops during the week for different things. Right now there’s a living healthy workshop that comes once a week and we go attend that. It’s a real help.”
Jane said that as a National Church Residences Service Coordinator, it was exciting to see the work she does pay off in such a direct way.
“Sometimes it’s hard to see an action when you’re helping somebody because you don’t see the reaction,” she said. “In this case I did and I saw it come full-circle. It was exciting for me to see that take shape.”
Birchwood Apartments is a 173-resident senior apartment complex that has a Service Coordination contract with National Church Residences. Jane said that when Care Guide was first introduced, residents initially had some questions. But today they full embrace the positive impact it has had on their overall health.
“Just having the discussions with them prompts them to think about their health and more forward and talk to their doctor about it,” Jane said. “Bonnie is really good about advocating for herself and she took some action.”