That wasn’t the first, or last, time Cheryl had saved a life over the phone. She was recently talking to the wife of a member who was home, recently discharged from a heart catheter procedure. Cheryl said, “His wife told me his vision was blurry, his arm was swollen, he was weak, and his gait was unsteady. She’d thought this was part of the normal healing process after the surgery. But I knew these were signs of a stroke.”
She told the member’s wife that he needed medical care immediately. “When I know one of my members is in trouble, I’m like a ferocious bull,” she said. Cheryl had advised they go straight to the ER. “I talked to the member’s wife recently and he’s doing well,” Cheryl said. “In fact, he was out mowing the lawn! I told her to make sure he stayed hydrated and out of that sun!”
Cheryl plays the part of nurse, friend, coach, cheerleader – whatever the member needs from her. She takes experiences from her own life – caring for her parents, the death of her grandson, her brother’s stroke – to relate to them.
“I had a member whose husband had recently committed suicide,” she said. “I know about grief. No one can tell you how to walk your journey of grief. You walk the journey like you need to walk the journey. I can show them I understand, and I care.”
She said, “I tell my parents, ‘I talk about you at work.’ My daddy is on dialysis. He went through that wave of emotions and depression when he started it, but now he looks forward to it to see his buddies. My mom has dementia.” She is happy the dementia has not progressed to the point that her mom does not recognize her husband or children yet. “I have experience with what some members are going through.”
Loneliness and isolation can also be prevalent in the Medicare population. “Sometimes they have family or children, but no one visits. They’re eating only canned food. They are on a fixed income and can’t afford fresh vegetable and fruits. Some must decide between food and medications. They’re dependent on a neighbor. There was one man who had frostbite on his toes because he didn’t have heat. It is heartbreaking,” she said.
When asked about her “why” – the reason she does this work, she said, “The reason why I do this is because I love the members. I want to meet them at point of need. Even if it’s not a need and it’s a want – I’m going to find a way to help them. When I get off the phone, I want them to feel encouraged or at least know that someone cares for them.”
She said, “These members think I am doing something for them, but they are also doing something for me. When I see a member’s needs being met, that is medicine to me. That is joy to me.”
She wanted to recognize her colleagues in case management and said that any one of them would make the same decisions to help members. “I want to acknowledge every complex case manager; our team leads and managers – they all do a fantastic job. I admire them all.”