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Every night, before she turned off the TV and got ready for bed, Gabby’s daughter would ask her if she’d remembered to take her medication that day. At 74, Gabby* had faced more than her share of health challenges – breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, to name a few – and she had the full pill case to show for it. 

And every night, Gabby would assure her daughter that, yes, of course she’d taken them.

Most nights it was true. 

But more and more lately, Gabby found herself lying, promising her daughter she’d taken her all her medication when she hadn’t. 

It wasn’t because she’d forgotten. Quite the contrary – Gabby had been keeping a close eye on those orange bottles, had watched the blur of white pills shrink a little more with each passing week. She’d even started shaking the pills into her palm and counting them, rationing two or three to use over the course of the week.

Unlike the estimated 7.5 million older adults who can’t afford to pay for their medication, Gabby was lucky enough to have the coverage and family support she needed to handle her healthcare costs. What Gabby was missing was much simpler: A ride to the doctor’s office.

Gabby lived with her daughter and grandson, both of whom worked all day and didn’t have the luxury to take time off to drive Gabby to appointments. On top of that, the family was already making due with a single shared car and the occasional carpool or bus ride, and Gabby’s son-in-law was facing his own chronic health issues, stretching the family’s time and resources even further.

Not wanting to burden her family more than she felt she already was, Gabby called her doctor’s office and tried to get a refill of her medication over the phone. But the staff said they couldn’t give her her prescription unless she came in for a visit. She tried to explain that it wasn’t that simple, that she would come in if she could, but the staff stood firm: “Come in or we won’t give you your prescription.”

Gabby’s anxiety skyrocketed. 

It had only been a few years since, on the heels of a long battle with breast cancer that had ended in a double mastectomy and lymph node removal, Gabby had had a heart attack. Ever since, she’d struggled to keep her health fears in check. She often spoke about the heart attack and the three days she’d spent in the hospital after – the fear that had followed her home, the fear that any ordinary day, without warning, it could happen again.

That’s why she’d joined myNurse – to keep tabs on her health and try to get out in front of health issues before they got out of hand again. And with help and encouragement from her Wellness Coach, Jenny, she’d been doing her best to keep her high blood pressure under control by managing her eating habits and salt consumption and getting in a walk every few days.

But as Gabby’s supply of medicine started to run low, her blood pressure shot up. Her numbers frequently spiked, accompanied by brief, sharp headaches she could only hope were from the stress. Fewer pills meant more stress, more stress meant higher readings, higher readings meant more stress and so it went, until, as Gabby told Jenny on their weekly call, things started to “snowball.”

On the calls, Gabby made a half-hearted effort to convince Jenny she was taking her medication, but after a few critically high blood pressure readings, the ruse fell flat. Jenny could tell from the numbers she was seeing that whatever Gabby was taking was having little effect. After some prodding, Gabby admitted the truth. 

Ironically, in an effort to preserve her medication, she’d stopped taking the pills completely, afraid of running out and not being able to get more when she really needed them. Without a ride to the doctor’s office, she hadn’t known what else to do.

Jenny did her best to put things into perspective. Transportation issues should never be the reason you don’t get the medicine you need, she explained. And such problems paled in comparison to the seriousness of such frequent high blood pressure readings. She assured Gabby that they would find a solution to this problem.

Jenny helped coordinate with the doctor’s office so that Gabby was able to schedule a virtual appointment and get a refill that would tide her over until she could make it in. Meanwhile, Jenny shared information about no-cost transportation options for older adults and people with health issues, explaining how the local dial-a-ride service could help the next time Gabby’s daughter or grandson couldn’t drive her to the doctor. There were so many resources like that, Jenny explained, if only Gabby could find the strength to ask.

After her prescriptions had been refilled, Gabby reached out to thank Jenny for her help. “I did what you told me and made an appointment,” she said. “I’m just very grateful.”

Jenny made Gabby promise she’d find a way to reel in the stress of recent weeks, to put herself first. Sit on the patio, take a bubble bath, read a book, she suggested. Give the snowball a chance to melt.

Gabby laughed. “I’m going to close my computer right now and go to the patio with my daughter,” she said. “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”

* Member stories are inspired by real interactions between our members and Wellness Coaches, but member names and some other details have been changed to protect privacy

Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the co-founder and CEO of mynurse.ai. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco.

More posts by Waleed Mohsen