The Fristers are an elderly couple who live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They have been married for 43 years and have no children. Before retiring, Mr. Frister was a truck driver and Mrs. Frister worked for Goodwill Industries.
Due to various debilitating conditions, Mrs. Frister was confined to a wheelchair. Mr. Frister was the primary caregiver for his wife and also did all of the household chores, such as cleaning, cooking and the laundry. He also managed their personal finances, which were being rapidly depleted by their medical bills. But Mr. Frister has limited use of his left arm and leg because of a stroke and was exhausted from housework and caring for his wife. He came down with pneumonia and was temporarily placed in a nursing home.
People like the Fristers get their care within a system that is difficult to use and often unresponsive. These people often find that their insurance pays for acute medical care but not the kinds of supportive care that are required by the chronically ill.
Building Health Systems for People with Chronic Illnesses (BHS) is a national initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to identify and develop exemplary models for delivering health care services to the chronically ill. BHS projects focus on allowing patients to play a stronger role in the delivery of their own health care.
In the Fristers' case, a social service worker affiliated with their housing unit became aware of their struggles. The Fristers were referred to a local branch of the Wisconsin Partnership, a BHS project that is implementing better models of caring for people with chronic conditions on a statewide basis.
As a result, Mrs. Frister received a walker and a home exercise program. She no longer needs a wheelchair. Mr. Frister is now receiving physical therapy. The couple has a housekeeping service and has also been provided with transportation to get to their doctor appointments. The Fristers have been able to join social activities in their area and, most importantly, have been able to remain in their own home.
BHS is based at the Center for Health Care Strategies, a nonprofit resource center that promotes high quality health care services for low-income populations and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.