Sun Health at Home follows members wherever they call ‘home’
By Alison Stanton
After more than 37 years working as a secretary for the FBI in Chicago, Frances Kline retired at age 55.
“I retired the day I was eligible,” says Frances, 72. “I loved my job and everything, but I did not want to die at my desk. I wanted to live.”
Frances settled in Sun City, where she made friends at church, joined local sewing clubs and enjoyed line and square dancing.
Then, four years ago, she suffered a heart attack. It came at a difficult time. Frances’ house needed significant repairs, and she had been scammed by dishonest contractors who had promised to fix her home but who broke their promises.
“I was under a lot of stress,” Frances says. She believes it led to her heart attack.
Around the same time, she learned about Arizona’s first continuing care at home program, Sun Health at Home, which provides support and personalized services to members 55 or older who want to successfully age in place.
“I found out about the program and I thought, ‘Gosh this fits me to a T,’” Frances says. “I joined Sun Health at Home and I’m a Founders Club member.”
Sun Health at Home has five plans that are scaled for cost based on the member’s age at the time of enrollment as well as their individual needs. One of the plans, the Classic Plan, can even complement or replace long-term care insurance.
In January, when Frances decided to move into an independent living community, she knew she didn’t want to give up the Sun Health at Home program. Members can elect to continue the program in independent or continuing care communities. In fact, no matter where the member resides, Sun Health at Home can continue to provide expert care and services.
“The essence of our program is to keep folks at home where they prefer to live and to help them age in place gracefully,” says membership counselor Josh Freegard. “And as time goes on we are there to guide them and provide the necessary resources for them to stay independent as long as possible.”
The key aspect of Sun Health at Home that distinguishes it from other programs is the personal Wellness Coordinator, a highly trained registered nurse or social worker assigned specifically to manage the member’s care.
“The Wellness Coordinator will customize a care plan that matches the member’s lifestyle,” Josh says. “We get to know the members very well. We know their likes, dislikes, preferences and life philosophy to make the care plan successful. We can start helping them align and manage every aspect of their lives as it relates to maintaining their wellness and quality of life.”
Currently, Sun Health at Home serves much of Maricopa County, including the West Valley, Wickenburg, Phoenix and Scottsdale. Once enrolled, the program is portable and allows membership benefits to transfer should a member decide to relocate to another state.
The cost of services, which include health and wellness activities, education, medication management, personal emergency response service, social activities, as well as some transportation and meals, is covered by the program. Facility-based care may also be a program benefit depending on the plan chosen. The Wellness Coordinator is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Sun Health at Home acts as the primary emergency contact for each member.
“The Wellness Coordinator often becomes a friend to that member and certainly an advocate and expert health care concierge says Josh. “So, often the availability to communicate with the Wellness Coordinator makes the difference for that member.”
A feeling of security and peace of mind is especially beneficial for singles, widows and widowers without family in the area — which was Frances’ situation.
Since signing up for Sun Health at Home, Frances has found a second family with the staff, especially with her Wellness Coordinator, Linda Esparza. Last year when Frances had cataract surgery, Linda attended her doctor appointments, brought her meals and checked up on her regularly. When Frances stopped driving, Linda provided her with a variety of transportation options.
“With Sun Health at Home, Linda was there with me every step of the way,” Frances says. “She’s not just a nurse. I consider her and the entire Sun Health at Home team as my friends.”
For Frances, Sun Health at Home provides comfort and confidence as she ages in place.
“It was never a consideration to drop the program when I moved out of my own home — I still wanted Sun Health at Home,” Frances says. “It’s like having a close friend or close relative working for you.”