Sinai Health Services


Approximately a year and a half ago, the Sinai Health System started a new program called Sinai Senior services. They are offering their services free of charge to seniors living in the Chicago Housing Authority buildings and low-income dwellers in Chicago and surrounding communities, near or far, north, south, east, and west.

Men and women 55 years of age and older are welcome to participate in the Sinai Community Institute Program called Premier Years. You will have access to all the medical benefits and social activities they have.

The people living in CHA buildings and low- income neighborhoods are their first priorities. The healthy, sick and the reclusive. They want the seniors that are afraid to leave their apartments and the ones that fear standing on the corners waiting at the bus stops.

Some of the seniors have experienced a lot of disappointment while waiting for a bus or van to take them to their doctors’ appointments. Their transportation never arrives. They have to make new appointments hoping the bus or van will come the next time, with a driver that’s courteous and kind with a knowledge of seniors’ inabilities to move fast.

The Sinai Senior Services are offering all of the medical resources they have available to assist the seniors with their medical needs. As a group of people, seniors have been neglected and denied proper health care for years.

To take advantage of these medical services Sinai health systems has to offer, you can obtain information from the desk of Lasharon William, located in the lobby of the Mount Sinai’s Hospital main entrance near the intersection of Ogden and California avenues.

William said, “I’m Sinai health system’s educator for the senior programs. I make appointments and arrange transportation for them. I escort seniors to their appointed doctors. I help them in understanding the circuit breaker form, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Another member of the Sinai senior outreach program is medical assistant Noe Azpeitia. He works at the senior center in the Kling professional building.

“What I do is go out into the communities with a Sinai doctor, checking blood pressure, cholesterol, all vital parts. Also I’m in charge of transportation. I set the schedule for seniors. We have two vans that we use to provide these services. Safety is our utmost concern.”

Neo Azpeitia was asked, “Do your vans have safety belts and lifts?”

“Our vans do have safety belts,” Azpeitia said. “They don’t have lifts. The hospital does have lifts for extreme cases.”

Diane Dubey, Sinai’s assistant vice president for marketing and public affairs said, One of our most effective programs in helping seniors stay healthy is Premier Years. Premier Years is a membership group. We don’t perceive all senior citizens as on their death bed. We have some seniors who are volunteers who are working throughout the hospital.”

Dubey was asked the origin of the Premier Years program. She said, “I think in the 12 years since I got here, there were committee meetings and senior services. I don’t know why it was so hard but apparently, it was very difficult to put something together, from soups to nuts, because not that many people have it. Not that many institutions do it well and it took us years.

“Our program, as it is now constituted, has been up and running two years. I am told they met on and off having the top doctors, the heads of medical affairs and general nutrition and whatever.

“Another thing is we serve a population that doesn’t pay the private insurance. We never have enough money left over where we can say, ‘Let’s buy a van for the seniors. Let’s do a special program for the seniors because we have a lot of money sitting in a pot.’ So when we wanted to do something, it means taking from another program. It was hard.

It took us a long time to get everyone on board that the senior population has grown. This used to be a much younger community. Both the African American and the Hispanic communities were just young families with a bunch of kids. But then they found out that grandma was sitting there too. And certainly, in our African American communities, I met a lot of elder ladies who are actually the primary care givers for their grandchildren.

“So I think the extension of the population finally became clear and then the priorities kicked in. We care about seniors. We provide services in a way that makes it easy for seniors to take care of themselves. We can’t take care of everyone in the world but we want to bring as many seniors as we can to accommodate into our program.

“Because we were founded in 1919 with a mission to care for an undeveloped community. Back then, this was an immigrant European community. Today, it’s a different community. But we didn’t move. Our mission didnt change and we are here to help our community.

“We only succeed if we help them. We don’t worry about who has insurance or who has a rich son-in-law or whatever when they use other places. We are partners of the state of Illinois. A lot of our people are on Medicaid and seniors obviously on Medicare. We meet their needs.

“I have doctor friends who go, ‘Oh, Medicaid. They pay so bad.’ That’s nothing we get into. 12 percent of our patients aren’t even on government programs. We don’t get Medicaid for them so if someone comes in with anything that’s fine. Or with nothing, that’s fine too. Because the point is, it’s the patient, not the funding sources.”

Dubey added, “We work with two hospitals, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. The seniors have access to two hundred doctors.”

June Fenton, who works with geriatrics in the Sinai Health System, had this to say: “First of all, we want Sinai services exposed to senior buildings and the rest of the community. There are different types of people who live in the senior buildings. They are there for social, economic or financial reasons. They are living there for a reason.

“But in terms of their health, their physical and emotional being, people vary. Some take advantage of the activities going on in the community. Some are isolated, refuse to see a doctor and have medical problems. Sinai will provide the services needed. We have activities that will provide education and an on-going screening system so they are always aware of their medical conditions. We give them information they can use to keep healthy. We also give lectures in the senior residences and churches, different types of information, whether it be about sexuality, aging or about arthritis. On very common medical conditions that seniors experience, we tend to do lectures more often. We have doctors that do that. We always allow them to choose certain topics. There are subjects they may not be comfortable with, such as sexuality, or HIV.

“With AIDS, the senior population is increasing. That’s a strong topic being addressed by a lot of communities’ health agencies.

“You have other seniors that are somewhat healthy who are not actively involved, who seem to be more isolated. Maybe they are not taking their medication regularly or seeing a doctor at different times. Those people seem to fall through the cracks because nobody is checking on them. They do not meet Medicare requirements to have a nurse come out.

“If it’s not a structured environment in the building to knock on people’s doors to see how they are doing, they just let life come as it may. We want to reach out to identify people that will benefit from a phone call on a weekly basis or phone calls on a monthly basis. We’ll have a nurse come out and feed them and take their blood pressure regularly, explain their medication, help them organize in such a fashion. We make it easy for them to feel good about themselves, letting them know that we do care about them and that our staff does care about the seniors. That’s why there is an excitement in wanting to increase our outreach program.

“So it’s more of a crisis intervention to be able to deal with the changes in aging. Sometimes people get to a point where it’s difficult for them to make good decisions about their needs, to know about the legal system. The goal is to keep them in their homes and keep them as healthy as possible. So that way, we can know all the resources, even their health care provider, who can stay on top of their health and have a sufficient outreach program to stay in contact with them as much as they can.

“Transportation is very important, having transportation available all the time.

“Another thing too are the physicians we have here are great. They are trained in dealing with older adults. They have a regular clinic set up for seniors. They love dealing with older people. I did a survey when I started working with the staff here and every one of the patients said, ‘I love my doctor.'”

June Fenton was asked, “Do the seniors pay for any of these services?”

She said, “Nothing I described is paid for by the seniors. The staff are dedicated to doing it because the need is there. Sinais mission is to help the seniors.”

The geriatric product line manager is Rory Lopes. His job is to help the seniors get what they want as quickly as possible. “When we do our outreach program, the goal of intent is not to bring seniors into Sinai. Our goal when we do our outreach is to take the program to the seniors, talk to them about different services so they can get help, if they need it, to offer them new information if they want it.

Thats why we go out. Our intent is to bring people in numbers and not bring people in who don’t need to be here. The idea is to be able to go out and offer these services to the community.

“When I am talking to seniors, they say, ‘I take the tablet and break it in half. I take half today and half tomorrow.’ I say, ‘No. You have to take the whole thing.’ ‘But the cost of this medication is so expensive.’ I say, ‘We can help you.’ In working with seniors, they think if they take half the pill, it’s OK. ‘Half is better than none. I will take the pill for one week and stop taking it for one week and start again.’ Then you get nothing out of them. You can’t do that. The reason the doctor gave you that prescription is because you need to take them every day.

On the Premier Years program at Sinai, Lopes said, “They get together twice a month. The whole idea is it’s a social group. They go to movies. They go to the casinos. They go traveling. They go to the casinos. They go on another trip and they go to the casinos. They have birthday celebrations where everybody gets to celebrate their birthday. They have picnics, what they call a picnic in the park. They hold it inside if it’s too hot outside for the seniors. They have educational programs where they bring people to talk on different topics, whether it’s circuit breaker, osteoporosis, social security, nutrition or diets.”

Here’s some of the topics of the health link programs they offer: the Sinai wellness class, asthma, depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, breast cancer, stop smoking.

Suzan L. Rayner is the medical director of Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, operated in association with Sinai Health System. Suzan L. Rayner said, “Many patients that are treated at Mount Sinai Hospital, inpatients or out patients, may require rehabilitation afterward. We have developed a linkage with the Geriatric program. We are able to offer therapies geared toward our older patients.

“Many of our elder patients have arthritis; we have therapeutic swimming pool. It’s a heated pool, which is very important for people with arthritis. It’s also accessible for people in wheelchairs. We have a lift. We can transfer them onto the lift and it swings around into the pool. This is for inpatients and outpatients.” Wendy Benson is the out patient rehabilitation manager. Benson said “A.D.L. – that’s Activity of Daily Living, where a person can practice getting in and out of the bathtub, using adaptable equipment. We have a full kitchen where patients can practice cooking, dishwashing, getting in and out of bed. This area is set up just like an apartment, with the feeling of a safe environment.”

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