Blue Nebraska’s Marjorie Maas presents the $15,000 “Live Fearless” grant check to Carolina Padilla at the conclusion of an ESL class.

“Live Fearless” is the inspirational slogan for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s grant program. It’s also Intercultural Senior Center’s goal as we work to assist our immigrant and refugee seniors in living lives free of fear and lonely isolation. One of the ways we help them to live safe, fulfilling lives is by addressing some of the most critical aspects of quality medical care. These include providing transportation and accompaniment to appointments, providing language interpreters when needed, serving as medical advocates and assisting with paperwork, overseeing the communication of critical information and prescription directions, and insuring prescribed follow-up with medication/treatment and family involvement.

Based on this work, ISC was recently awarded a $15,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Live Fearless grant to help support our program.

“The Intercultural Senior Center uniquely serves a cross section of Omaha’s aging population with practical help by building community around commonalities in difference,” notes Marjorie Maas, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nebraska. “This Fearless Grant is to be used toward its social work efforts and is critical and inspirational — fitting of the funding program’s name. Our organization’s dedication to diversity, but also health, basic needs and education, are all touched by the Center’s programming.”

It’s a win-win for everyone involved, explains Anahi Reynoso-Ramirez, ISC Director of Social Services. The grant will allow ISC to continue providing this level of care, while also benefiting medical service providers, saving both time and medical costs, and ultimately leading to better health outcomes.

Anahi offered a typical scenario: A nursing student volunteer learns during a routine checkup at ISC that one of our seniors, “Bhatt,” has critically high blood pressure. She lets Anahi know of her concern, and Anahi looks at Bhatt’s records, checking to see if he has a medical service provider and when he last had an examination. She then meets with Bhatt and talks about options. If Bhatt agrees, Anahi secures transportation with one of our drivers, arranges an interpreter if needed, and adjusts her schedule or the schedule of an ISC case worker to accompany Bhatt to a medical clinic.

Because most seniors we serve aren’t insured, we look to community health centers such as CHI Health, OneWorld, or Charles Drew for assistance, Anahi explains. “Lack of insurance is one of the reasons they don’t seek help even when they’re sick,” she says. “That’s why we work to inform them of other available options for medical care. We want them healthy and feeling good.”

After the exam, Anahi and the interpreter explain the physician’s directions and options for treatment. After a stop at the pharmacy, they make sure Bhatt understands how to take the prescriptions and whether the doctor has requested a follow-up appointment. In fact, because so many of our seniors aren’t fluent in English, clinics often call ISC rather than their patient’s home to arrange post-visit physical therapy or follow-up checkups.

Why aren’t the families more involved?

“The seniors know us and trust us,” Anahi explains. “Sometimes it’s difficult to engage the family because they have to work such long hours and have other responsibilities. The Seniors often prefer it’s us who are involved with their medical care, and to be honest, so does the medical community.”

It takes a lot of time and resources to accompany one senior to appointments, but Anahi, community medical providers—and now Blue Nebraska—agree it’s worth it.