For seniors, navigating the mazes of housing, healthcare and transportation can be confusing. For some, it’s impossible … unless they have help.
Case managers Karen Goss and Adrianna Stankovich are there to connect the dots for Cupertino’s 50 and older population.
“I really enjoy working with elders. I love the stories they tell,” Adrianna said.
The Cupertino Employees Association Members work with about 100 clients in a year. With offices at the City’s Senior Center, Adrianna and Karen help seniors schedule doctor’s visits, look for affordable housing and find ways to get around town.
“We help seniors find resources to prevent premature institutionalization. We want to keep them safe and independent in their home,” Karen said.
A typical day includes a handful of walk-ins; the case managers can be as hands off as helping resolve someone’s billing issue or hands on as bridging the connection between the senior and their adult children.
But the Senior Center also offers activities from language and technology classes to afternoon karaoke, which many singers take very seriously. Other services include a Caregiver Support Group, free blood pressure checks and health insurance counseling.
Strong skills for the job are patience, flexibility, creativity and clear communication.
“They need to trust you. We have to give them autonomy,” Karen said. “One of the things I like about this job is that you can’t tell them what to do. They are independent, but you can be there to help.”
It can be hard to see residents struggle, but Karen and Adrianna win important victories for clients.
Karen recently helped a client achieve a mediated settlement to get out of a property management contract with a shady real estate agent who was charging massive fees.
In an all-too-common scenario, Adrianna assisted a senior with health issues who couldn’t keep up her home. Though the client was adamant about staying independent, Adrianna worked to get a part-time home-health aide and convinced the senior to get on medication for high blood pressure.
“What I enjoy is every day I go home, I can tell myself that I helped someone today,” Karen said. “It might be small….
“Even though it feels small to you, it’s huge for that person,” Adrianna said to Karen.
Having two full-time case managers for seniors is rare, but Adrianna said Cupertino was an early pioneer in the 1990s with its case management program. Among the program’s benefits is cutting costs to social services and healthcare.
“We’re helping them to save money and prevent them entering skilled nursing facilities, which we all pay for,” Karen said. “We help people stay in their current living environment for as long as possible.”