Mary Alice Reynolds – Chronically Ill Patient

65 years old; Married, two grown out-of-town children; Employed as an administrative assistant at a nonprofit


Mary has been working all her life, and now that it’s time to start thinking about retirement, she’s worried she won’t be healthy enough to enjoy it. Staying active was always something she put off; between the kids and work, she was just too tired to take good care of herself. Now that she and her husband have the time, they are scared it’s too late. She has rheumatoid arthritis, COPD and heart failure, and is slightly overweight and mostly sedentary. She and her husband just quit smoking after many years; he, too, is chronically ill and inactive.

Mary keeps getting more and more medications from the doctor, and it is hard to remember what to take and when. Her daughter tries to help her parents when she can, but she doesn’t always have the time because she has kids of her own. Mary does not want to be stuck in the house all the time, and she wants to see her grandchildren grow up.

Mary uses computers as part of her job, but she’s not particularly computer savvy. She keeps a paper date book. She primarily uses her older home computer for social media, spending a lot of time on Facebook. She plays mahjong and other games on her older-version Android phone. She’s a visual learner with some resistance to change.


“I never know when my arthritis is going to flare up. It makes it hard to plan.”

“I’m not really clear on my long-term health outlook. Seems like something’s always going wrong.”

“The physical therapy is helping, but it’s not helping enough. Unless I take more medicine, I have trouble with my hands when I wake up.”

“I just do what my doctors tell me; I don’t understand everything.”

“I can’t always afford my medications, so sometimes I just get filled what I can. I don’t know which are most important, so I rotate them when I need to.”

Short-Term Goals

  • Walk the dogs every other morning.
  • Get a full night’s sleep.
  • Not have my daughter worry about me; I can manage.
  • Have the energy to go to church on Sundays without feeling too tired or exhausted.
  • Reduce joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis so I can use my hands more and do more for myself.

Long-Term Goals

  • Take fewer medications.
  • Be able to easily ask my physicians questions about my health.
  • Enjoy retirement in leisure, with less worry.
  • Be able to sit in the car pain-free for three hours at a time to take regular trips to visit the grandchildren.

Typical Problems

  • Not only is it difficult to sleep, but it hurts to get out of bed in the morning, walk to the bathroom, get a shower and get dressed.
  • Frustrated with communicating health information to my daughter; she can help a lot, but she goes from being too busy to pay attention to being very nosy.
  • With today’s advances in medicine and treatments, why can’t doctors offer a better solution?
  • Other people my age seem to be feeling better than I do. Why? What am I doing wrong?
  • Insurance bills are hard to understand; they always seem wrong.
  • It’s hard to get an appointment with the doctor – I have to take time off work. Sometimes I just ignore routine visits.
  • I don’t always understand what doctors say to me. I’ve learned to always get everything in writing, but there are some words I don’t recognize.
  • There are so many appointments to keep track of.
  • There are too many medications to remember to take at different times.

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