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Call Laguna Beach Seniors for immediate, free, compassionate advice during these trying times

Laguna Beach seniors who are feeling anxious during these trying times have a wonderful resource available, no matter the issue at hand or whether or not it is related to COVID-19. Martha Hernandez, LCSW, director of care management at Laguna Beach Seniors, is available by phone to link individuals to resources that can help with serious, as well as everyday physical, psychological, and practical concerns.

But Martha is not just a convenient conduit to care. She’s a wise, experienced, calm voice in a world panicked by a pandemic, the likes of which few have experienced in their lifetimes. 

“I find most people feel comforted just hearing practical advice from someone objective, someone who isn’t affiliated with the media or a politician, someone who can suggest solutions to their individual concerns,” Martha says. “I’d suggest rationing yourself to no more than half an hour of news in the morning and in the evening.”

Smiling, she adds, “People often resist advice from their kids or their spouses – it’s human nature – but when I offer my advice, they are more inclined to listen – even if it’s exactly the same.”

Martha says that often a caller (or a walk-in, in the good old pre-coronavirus days) will chat to her about their situation, yet not be quite sure what is truly at the heart of their anxiety.

Similar issues, different solutions

“Some of the concerns are similar, but the solutions are often different for each individual. I ask them questions to figure out what their needs actually are, why they are quite so anxious. Often they don’t know themselves. 

“For example, they may say they are worried about a relatively minor medical problem, say, a tooth that’s been aching just a bit, and I realize that their concern is really about what they should do if it gets worse, how, without a car, they would get to the dentist, especially when we are all supposed to be sheltering in place.”

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Martha Hernandez, Director of Care Management for Laguna Beach Seniors

“I can’t treat the tooth, but I can lessen their anxiety by linking them up with organizations like the wonderful nonprofit, Sally’s Fund, which provides free transportation for medical appointments.

“And I always ask them to follow up with me if they don’t get the care they need. I want them to know there are other options, other resources.”

Martha tells of a woman worried about her spouse, who was experiencing drastic side effects with a new medication.

“She wanted to know my advice about how to handle the side effects. Instead I suggested that they visit their doctor, who might be able to change the medication, which he did, with much better results,” she says. “It was the logical solution, but not too many of us think logically when we are under enormous stress. I can be the objective outsider who is able to see things in perspective.”

Laguna Beach Seniors also offers a free counseling service, called Feeling the Blues, which in this time of the coronavirus is invaluable to seniors suffering from anxiety and depression.

“I can link seniors to one of our five therapists who help with our Feeling the Blues program,” she explains. “They can talk over the phone and help provide strategies to cope with the situation we currently find ourselves in, or ongoing problems.”

So far, Martha hasn’t received calls about domestic violence, but anyone who is suffering that way should contact her to get linked to Human Options’ Safe Options for Seniors, or call them directly at (877) 910-9276. Likewise, anyone contemplating suicide might want to call an excellent program, Didi Hirsch’s Mental Health Services, at (800) 273-8255, or turn first to Martha to discuss their concerns. 

“The National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) is another great resource. Two numbers: (714) 991-6412 or (877) 910-9276,” Martha adds.

Care management covers a wide spectrum of concerns

Laguna Beach Seniors’ Care Management Program covers a wide spectrum of concerns beyond mental health issues, including safety, nutrition, finance, and low-income housing.

“There is help to be found in all those areas,” Martha says. “I do a thorough assessment over the phone, which helps me match individuals with the right resources for their specific challenge, and suggest which city, county, state, or federal program or independent nonprofit might be the best fit.”

A good option for many is the nonprofit Age Well Senior Services, which ensures that certain seniors are kept safely isolated in their homes and provided with Home Delivered Meals (HDM) as well as non-emergency medical transportation. Additionally, three days per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Age Well is now providing Grab & Go lunch for seniors to pick up at the Susi Q Senior Center. 

Hard-working, compassionate Martha has noticed an outpouring of kindness from the community toward its older residents. 

“Seniors have expressed gratitude to us for our help, but even more heartening, they tell me that their neighbors, some of whom they’ve never met before, and friends, have rallied around to help. Often family has moved away or they’re estranged, so the community is very important to these folk.

“In one case, a volunteer from our Christmas ‘Adopt a Senior’ project offered to donate two restaurant dinners to low-income seniors…and our plan is to offer the meals to a couple of seniors who have been wonderful in helping their senior community. So all this paying forward is wonderful to see.”

Martha admits to some anxiety herself. “I worry about our first responders, but I’m gratified to see how the community is helping them with ready-cooked meals, which they really need.

“As time goes on, we’re going to hear more about struggles, financially and otherwise. The mental health implications are dire, with the loss of jobs, the inability to pay rent, and so on,” she says. “But I’m convinced that we will emerge from this with a stronger sense of community. I see it happening in real time, right now.”

Martha asks anyone who needs help to call her at (949) 715-8104 for a confidential chat or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Please call or write!” she emphasizes. “That’s what Laguna Beach Seniors is all about, helping our seniors age in place with our Lifelong Laguna program, and helping them age gracefully with the minimum number of cares and worries – especially now. And no worry is too minor. We’re here to help.”

Visit www.thesusiq.orgto learn more about resources available and programs offered, including to sign up for Laguna Beach Seniors’ newsletter.


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