Iona’s Helpline: A Resource for All

March 2, 2022

We spoke with Samantha Henson, Iona’s Senior Manager of Information, Referral, and Resources, to learn more about the Helpline as a community resource.

Q: Tell us about the Helpline. What kinds of questions can people ask? What information and resources does Iona connect them to?
Iona’s Helpline is a resource available to anyone. It’s open to older adults, caregivers, and anyone who knows an older adult they are concerned about.

We get calls from all over the Washington, DC region and country. We are able to connect people to Iona’s programs as well as other aging related resources such as home care, mental health support and support groups, day programs, legal support for setting up advance directives and more. No matter where they live, we help people as they navigate their aging journey.

Q: How can people connect with the Helpline? Is it possible to talk to a real person?
The Helpline can be reached at (202) 895-9448 and is staffed by Iona social workers on Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. You can also call after hours or on the weekends and leave a message. If email is easier, you can reach the Helpline at info@iona.org.

Due to the pandemic, Helpline staff work from home, so all calls go to voicemail. However, staff check the voicemailbox several times a day and aim to return calls within 24 hours.

I think people appreciate being able to talk to a real person because they are used to being on hold forever or not getting what they want. Being able to call and talk to someone is so much easier sometimes.

Q: How has the Helpline assisted a caller recently?
Earlier this year, we got a call from a son who was concerned about his mother, who had become isolated during the pandemic. She had also begun experiencing declines in her physical and mental health and cognition.

The son lives in California and has some local family in DC, but no one was available to check in on his mom regularly or provide help with tasks such as grocery shopping, food preparation, medication management, and going through bills.

While reviewing resources that might help the family, it seemed like an Iona Care Manager would be best. A care manager could spend time getting to know his mom, connecting her with various resources, and then check in periodically to make sure referrals are going smoothly. Some specific examples the care manager could help with are connecting the mom to home care, Around Town DC’s social and wellness programming, setting up a Personal Emergency Response System, and more.

After our talk, the son sounded relieved at the idea of having a local professional build a relationship with his mom and connect her with known resources. He was also interested in setting up a free 15-minute consultation with an Iona care manager and his mother when he visits in a couple of weeks.

This is a great example of exactly why our Helpline exists–we are a resource for anyone who needs help with aging or caregiving for themselves or someone they care about.

Q: What’s something you wish more people knew about Iona’s Helpline?
How extensive it is. Sometimes when people think about Iona, they see us as the lead agency in Ward 3, but they don’t realize many of our services go beyond Ward 3–so if anyone has any questions about aging and community and where to go or what to do, it’s always worth the call. Maybe Iona has a program for them, or we can refer them somewhere outside of Iona.