MetroHealth Volunteers Spread Hope One Call at a Time
Mais Nemeh is good at small talk. That’s clear as soon as you start chatting with the 20-year-old Cleveland State University student. A volunteer program at MetroHealth helped her realize that knack for good conversation can improve people’s health, too.
That’s the basis of Calls for HOPE – a program through MetroHealth’s Institute for H.O.P.E.™ that pairs trained volunteers with patients, especially seniors, for weekly chats over the phone. Conversation might focus on the weather, hobbies, family, plans for the week, recipes – anything that might get the patient talking.
“At the start of the pandemic, I personally felt like I didn’t talk to anybody except for my two brothers,” says Nemeh, who plans to go to medical school. “I couldn’t imagine how people who were socially isolated felt. I thought this program would be a good opportunity to not only help them but give me someone to talk to as well.”
A program like this is desperately needed in Greater Cleveland. In 2021, for example, 46% of MetroHealth patients screened for their social needs reported being at risk for social isolation.
That’s especially concerning given the growing body of evidence that links social isolation with various health conditions – and not just mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Social isolation among heart failure patients, for instance, was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of death and higher rates of hospitalization.
“Social isolation can be catastrophic,” says James Campbell, MD, Chair of the Department of Geriatrics at MetroHealth. “It can lead to the loss of purpose, loss of a sense of community or a sense of belonging. People who are thriving in old age have lots of social contact. Human contact is critical to your mental health and so much more.”
Patient participants include individuals managing chronic illness or injury, those living alone and individuals experiencing life changes that present new challenges for socializing. Volunteers are trained to keep things positive, report concerning behavior and steer the patient toward other healthy outlets for socialization.
Nemeh’s secret to a good conversation? Just being herself.
“Sometimes we’ll have really good conversations, and it’s hard to say goodbye,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to volunteer, especially in a hospital setting. Being able to do that virtually during the pandemic and still make a difference has been rewarding.”
The Institute for H.O.P.E.™ is recruiting additional volunteers for Calls for HOPE. The next virtual training session will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26. We ask for a commitment of weekly calls of at least 15 minutes over the course of six months. For more information or to register, call 440-592-1317 or email CallsforHOPE@metrohealth.org.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, three-quarters of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.