For the past 12 years, Letha Hail has learned how to manage and deal with diabetes while still maintaining her independence. She is 78 years old and faces the challenging task of navigating a complex health system while finding ways to afford the cost of her care on a fixed income.
Fortunately, Letha has found muchneeded support through Community Health Ministry's "No Place Like Home" program. Funded by a new partnership with UnitedHealthcare, the program is dedicated to helping seniors in rural communities remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. By pairing participating members with community liaisons, more Kansas seniors are able to connect with essential resources, like groceries and housing, in addition to physical, mental, and dental health services.
For independent seniors like Letha, it can be hard to reach out for help. Many don't know where to turn for support, and others are hesitant to ask for assistance. This makes strong community resources like Community Health Ministry all the more critical in helping seniors maintain their active, day-to-day lives. "We want to close the gap between our front door and their front door," expressed Rick Hernandez, CEO of Community Health Ministry. "We want to provide access to care where access to care is not necessarily affordable or achievable."
In Kansas, chronic health conditions can severely limit a senior's independence. Roughly 36 percent of the state's seniors have difficulty living on their own as a result of a disability, and nearly 10 percent of seniors have diabetes, according to United Health Foundation's 2017 America's Health Rankings Senior Report and the 2016 America's Health Rankings Annual Report. The lack of providers in certain counties, including primary care physicians and dentists exacerbates the problem. For these underserved communities, reliable, in-home support is essential.
It's the reason why Community Health Ministry's community liaisons play such a critical role. When Letha first connected with her community liason, Julie Hernandez, Julie noticed Letha was often skipping one of her diabetes medications because it was too expensive—a common problem among seniors with fixed incomes. In fact, nearly one-fourth of seniors living with diabetes in Kansas fail to receive necessary care to manage their health, according to the latest America's Health Rankings findings.
With the support of Julie and Community Health Ministry, Letha has improved access to the medical and social support she needs. Resources like nutrious food programs, access to critical diabetes medicines, dental services, and assistance to manage medical bills will help Letha remain at home longer.
"It is good to know I have a support system, like Julie. I can call on her and she will be there," Letha said. She added that the bond she formed with Julie within just one month of participating in the program has made a tremendous difference in her approach to health.
Over the next several years, Community Health Ministry's "No Place Like Home"programwill expand access to care in targeted rural communities with a focus on providing resources and support to seniors in need. "We have to be good neighbors," said Rick. "We have to be part of the community and care for each other."
Learn more about how we are partnering to build a healthier Kansas.