Care Coordination at Work: Jerry and Tami

Care Coordinator Tami posing with Jerry at Jerry's day habilitation center.

Tami (left) and Jerry (right) have been working together for over two years. The two are unified by care coordination and their mutual love for music.

Jerry Popp’s love of music is undeniable. He spends most of his free time listening to music in his room, has his own drum set, and even carries CDs around so his favorite tunes are constantly at his fingertips. Having eclectic taste, artists like Marvin Gaye and Bobby Lewis top his list of favorite musicians.

Behind all great musicians are teams of supports including bandmates, backup singers, managers and stage crew. Jerry, too, has a team of his own behind him, made up of family, friends and staff, including his Care Coordinator Tami Groth who leads the pack.

As Jerry’s Care Coordinator for the past two years, Tami has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work to help him overcome big and small obstacles and connect him to the resources he needs to live his best life.

This past February when Jerry fell and injured his hip, Tami was there to help him and his legal guardian, Esther, figure out what to do next in terms of Jerry’s living arrangements.

“We weren’t sure how long Jerry was going to be in rehabilitation,” says Tami. “He was there for a few months, but about a month and a half in we had a team meeting to decide what would be the best avenue moving forward.”

Before his injury Jerry lived at home with Esther. Not only did the team discuss the best next steps for Jerry, but they also considered the best route for Esther, who is aging and determined she wouldn’t be able to provide Jerry the best care he needed at home anymore.

Tami began the process of looking at different housing options for Jerry and searching diligently to find the best fit.

“We waited to see if there were any openings anywhere,” says Tami. “Then I just started making phone calls. I went to a fair at The Arc of Monroe and just started talking to people about different residential options and vacancies.”

Tami continued to search tirelessly for a safe and secure residential placement for Jerry, until she received a phone call from someone at CDS Monarch who knew Jerry and informed Tami they had a residential opening for him if he still needed it. The two checked it out first.

“I went for a visit there,” says Jerry. “I went for a dinner and overnight visit. Now I live there.”

In June Jerry officially moved into his new group home, where he lives with seven other housemates, some who he knew previously.

“I have my own private room there,” says Jerry. “I got to pick out the paint color too. I have one red wall and a red bed comforter.”

Though Jerry likes his new home, there has been some adjusting and time to transition.

“[Before] it was just Jerry and his two caregivers,” says Tami. “Now he’s living with seven other people his own age, getting into a routine, and meeting new staff.”

Privacy and independence in his new home is a very important goal of Jerry’s. After a few incidents with a nosey housemate, Tami helped him get a lock and key for his bedroom door.

“Tami helped me with keeping my room locked,” said Jerry. “So I have a key so I can lock my room up when I come [to my program].”

The pair is also working on getting Jerry his own phone line in his bedroom and phone with large numbers so he can make calls independently to his father who lives in Florida, his cousins and friends.

Now that Jerry is settling into his new home, Tami and Jerry’s next goals are to set up community habilitation so Jerry can get back out into the community and do fun things, such as going out to lunch and walking around the mall.

Tami’s persistence coupled with Jerry’s self-advocacy make them a dynamic duo, but the two are also connected through their mutual love of music.

“My favorite part of working with Jerry is just getting to know him,” says Tami. “I have a huge love for music. It’s part of my soul. So we had that connection right away.”

In addition to her persistent attitude, she attributes much of her success as a Care Coordinator to being able to connect with the people she works with on a deeper level beyond service coordination.

“[Care Coordination] is more about listening, taking the time, and being patient,” says Tami. “Get to know something about [the person] and what they like to do. And be patient with individuals, because some of them just need time, but be persistent with providers. The squeaky wheel get’s the oil.”