April 10, 2017

Longtime Durham residents Donna and John Olive have been married for 50 years.

During that time, they have supported each other in sickness and in health. They’ve faced a stroke, heart attack, heart bypass surgery and cancer together. Now, they take medications for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which add up to $140 a month and can be a strain on their fixed monthly income of $1,900.

Every six months, the Olives collect their medications and take them to Senior PharmAssist, a nonprofit located downtown in the Durham Center for Senior Life. Staff members go over the medications with them, making sure the Olives understand what each medication is for, checking if they’re correctly using them, discussing ways to improve their health besides taking medications, and exploring options to save money on their prescriptions.

“I haven’t met anyone who’s not friendly,” said Donna, 67, about Senior PharmAssist staff. “A lot of older people still have money, but we don’t happen to be ones that do. We’re both on a limited income, and to have someone that genuinely cares to try and help you, that’s pretty special.”

Senior PharmAssist focuses on helping seniors age 60 and older who are living on limited, fixed incomes and facing multiple health issues, like the Olives. The nonprofit received a $3,500 grant in October through the Community Care Fund, which awards grants to diverse nonprofits in Durham, Orange and Wake counties every year. The fund is financially supported by Duke employees who give to Duke’s annual Doing Good in the Neighborhood campaign.

About 2,440 people will receive services at no charge through Senior PharmAssist in fiscal year 2017. Many receive help paying for medications and benefit from in-person medication reviews with a pharmacist trained in geriatrics. Staff also connect seniors with community resources such as in-home healthcare and food assistance, as well as provide face-to-face advice regarding Medicare health and drug insurance. Medicare insurance counseling is available to everyone in Durham, no matter their age or income.

Donna and John Olive laugh with Rhonda Mack-Minnifield, Senior PharmAssist’s health resources coordinator.

The 2016-17 funding from Duke has helped provide 35 Medicare insurance counseling sessions to participants so far, said Viki Baker, Senior PharmAssist’s associate director.

“We form relationships here, and we are providing the same care that we would to a family member,” Baker said. “For some, meeting with us is about saving money on Medicare or straightening out medication concerns, but for others, it’s about being connected to community resources so they can remain healthy and engaged.”

Deborah L. Jenkins

Deborah L. Jenkins turned to Senior PharmAssist when she had to unexpectedly file for disability benefits in 2012. She had been working full-time as a licensed practical nurse at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, but her rheumatoid arthritis and a suppressed immune system incited constant illnesses and respiratory infections as well as pain in her hands and joints.

Senior PharmAssist helped Jenkins find an insurance plan that was comparable to the plan she had while working. They also examined her eight prescriptions for arthritis, cholesterol, nasal decongestion and blood pressure.

Now, at 64 years old, she is serving on Senior PharmAssist’s Participant Advisory Council and Board of Directors and helps spread the word to Durham seniors about Senior PharmAssist’s services.

“I tell all my friends and former classmates now, ‘Hey, this is the time to sign up and see what they can do,’” Jenkins said.

To learn more about Senior PharmAssist, visit seniorpharmassist.org.

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