I have offered my pro bono homeopathic consultation services in a twice monthly clinic for seniors in my neighborhood in San Francisco since 2011.The popularity of the clinic has grown, and now seniors come from around the city and the region to get homeopathic care.
In the spring of 2011, I had a fairly new and still part-time homeopathy practice in my San Francisco neighborhood of Bernal Heights. I thought I would like to volunteer my homeopathic consultations for seniors who frequent the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center(BHNC) for community activities as a way to serve a population who might otherwise not know about or be able to afford my services.The seniors attend the BHNC for community, free meals, games and other activities. The seniors can also meet with a BHNC social worker to get help accessing city services. A majority of the seniors served by the BHNC have a low or fixed income, and many have immigrated from other countries decades ago, mainly from Mexico, but also Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, China, and other countries. Many of the seniors at this clinic do not have access to good health care, and may not have insurance.
The BHNC has been a neighborhood non-profit for over 40 years, and in addition to services for seniors, also functions to preserve and create affordable housing for underserved populations, and to help at-risk teens to build skills, find part-time work and apply for post-secondary education. This extraordinary institution has survived a changing San Francisco for many decades by being passionate about social justice for the community they serve. So when I approached Roland Soriano, the coordinator for senior services at the time, he was very encouraging of me to meet with the executive board to present about what I do, and propose the clinic. The board was happy to have me volunteer my services, and offer the seniors free homeopathic medicines to complement whatever conventional care they receive. The BHNC staff understand that homeopathy is safe and does not interfere with conventional medicines, and that I practice within the provisions of the California Health Freedom Law including records maintenance, and disclosure about the nature of homeopathy, my training, etc. I am able to offer free homeopathic medicines because Hahnemann Laboratories in San Rafael generously donates them, since I donate my time for this clinic.
At the start of the clinic, I would give talks to the seniors about what homeopathy is, and what it can help with. I happened to volunteer on the same day as the UCSF student nurses who mainly give blood pressure readings at BHNC. The nurses were curious about homeopathy and so I would also offer an informational session to them, once a semester. For several semesters, we gave joint talks on various conditions – the nurses would talk to seniors about the conventional approach to a condition such as hypertension and lifestyle modification, and then I would talk about the homeopathic approach and giving examples of a few remedies indicated and how their indications are based on symptoms and health history. This helped for the seniors to get to know me, but honestly most of them were familiar with homeopathy from their home country – something the nursing students and the BHNC staff were surprised by.
The most common issue that I help people with by far is pain and stiffness, mostly from arthritis but also pain due to old injuries, from falls, and a variety of other conditions. Therefore the most common remedies given are Arnica, Bellis perennis, Rhus toxicodendron, Bryonia, and Hypericum. Other common issues that I have been able to help the seniors with: digestive issues (including iatrogenic), insomnia, headaches, colds, coughs and allergies. I do also regularly help seniors suffering with anxiety, grief and depression whether from loneliness and/ or self-imposed isolation. Occasionally I’ve been able to help improve the quality of life by lessening symptoms for someone with more serious conditions: multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s Disease. Most of the seniors are on conventional drugs to control issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Sometimes upon request by a client I am in contact with the primary care physician or other health care professional to explain about the homeopathic remedy I’m recommending, prior to their taking it.Most of the seniors who have come to my clinic for more than one visit have had significant improvement in their health, with some having dramatic reduction in pain, less dependence on pain medications including steroid injections, and better sleep. Most also have much better mood as they have more physical and mental freedom and restored hope in their own capacity to heal.
Logistically, the clinic is two hours, twice monthly though for the past year I sometimes have people waiting and have stayed for an additional hour to see them. I see seniors on a first come, first serve basis – there is a BHNC issued sign up sheet.
I have a one page combined intake and disclosure form that I review with all clients prior to our intake, and which they sign and can receive a copy.
I utilize a Hahnemann Labs professional kit of half dram remedy vials, comprised of the most 100 most common remedies in 30C, and the 50 most common remedies in 200C which I use in the clinic, providing the sealed vial of the indicated remedy after the consult, with an instruction card that has my information on it as well. Intake visits are the longest, but are not always the hour and a half that I alot in my private practice – it depends on the person and complexity of health. Often times follow up visits are only 10 to 20 minutes, especially for someone I have worked with for years.
While most of the seniors who have been served by this clinic are local to the neighborhood, there is no strict age or residence requirement and so I have started seeing more people from further away in the region as word of mouth spreads, and people find me through the Bay Area Homeopathy Association Clinics page. That is the only advertising I do other than being on the printed calendar of activities at BHNC. This tells me that we don’t have enough low cost options for homeopathic care in the Bay Area, since some seniors are making 3 connections on public transportation and spending hours of their time to come to my clinic from as far away as Marin, Berkeley, and San Jose.
I operate the clinic by myself, aside for a few internships over the years when an interested homeopath in need of more experience wanted to join me. I request a minimum three month (6 clinic) commitment with the BHNC seniors for such internships.
I have found this community work incredibly gratifying and I have learned so much from it. I have learned to give the remedy that a person seems to need, and not overthink it. I’ve learned to then keep looking for a better remedy as time goes on. I’ve learned about building relationships with a population I’m accountable to on a long term basis, including for more than just giving remedies – that I’m a trusted resource for the seniors and for the BHNC staff, and that showing up and being a part of that matters.