To endure what Sacira has survived, you need a certain amount of flexibility – physical and emotional. So it’s a good thing that at nearly 76-years-old, she’s still doing yoga.
“She really is flourishing; she knows what she wants to do,” says Susan Durvin, a Nurse Case Manager at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.
To be fair, Sacira has known what she wants to do for quite a while – she just didn’t say so.
“I was in the nursing home trying to transition her to an independent situation, and I thought, ‘OK, how are we going to do this? What is she going to need?Is she going to understand?’”, says Durvin.
Sacira speaks Croatian and knows very few English words.
She had been living with her son, who was her link to the community for many reasons, not the least of which was as her translator. But he was killed in a car accident a few years ago.
That left Sacira completely alone and virtually unable to communicate with anyone. She had no one to translate or to explain the bills that were piling up every month at her home.
“That led to her being evicted,” explains Janette Conway, Neighborhood’s Housing Specialist. “She ended up in a shelter; from the shelter, she ended up in a nursing home, and that’s when we got her at Neighborhood.”
Adds Durvin: “It was really overwhelming because, well, this was the first time that I had a woman who spoke Croatian.
Neighborhood’s solution? Sacira’s care management team connected her with a telephone interpreter service that can provide real-time translation at doctors’ visits, appointments, and even when the team comes to her apartment for home visits.
Using that service, Sacira was able to explain what Neighborhood’s interventions mean to her.
“Since my son died, they saved me from hell,” she says. “My life was like living hell. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for them. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
When they first met her, Neighborhood’s team initially found Sacira in excellent physical health. But she was depressed, lonely, and anxious.
“I was astounded at just how healthy she was,” comments Durvin, who is also a Registered Nurse. “Her psychiatric issues were another piece. And some of that is scary to people. It’s threatening. They feel like, well, they’re calling me crazy. You know that wasn’t the case at all. You could see through that, and you know what you could see, you can see a person who was scared, who was hurt, and who had loss in her life. And that’s not a crime.”
“She was angry; she didn’t trust many people, she didn’t trust the social workers at the nursing home,” Conway explains. “She had been promised many things that didn’t happen, she couldn’t understand why she was evicted. So I had to tell her that I was there to help her, and to trust me.”
Over time, it worked.
Sacira says she is “so happy that I came across people like this. They saved me from hell. My life has been like heaven since I met them. I thank God every day for having them in my life.”
During our brief visit, Sacira repeatedly leans over to hug and kiss Neighborhood’s team members, saying with her body what she cannot say with her words. But, she does know enough English to at one point embrace both women, look at them, and say:
“My family! My children! My friends.”