Marsha’s life as a former dementia-care nurse manager at a skilled nursing facility would come full circle when she became a resident in the same facility. Marsha enlisted in the navy after graduating from high school and served as a certified nursing assistant in a hospital, inspiring her to pursue a career in nursing years later, when she was a single mother raising her son. Describing herself as a self-sufficient person, she had been living with her sister in a duplex where her granddaughter lived too. She fondly reminisced about driving to Hammonasset Beach State Park to meet up with friends and play cards, until the morning she awoke with severe back pain and was unable to get out of bed. She went to the emergency room and was given two options: do nothing for her lumbar spinal stenosis or have a very risky surgery to reconstruct her spine. After a ten-hour surgery in which she needed resuscitation, she requested transfer to the familiar nursing home in which she worked. She would not only have to adjust to feeling a loss of freedom, but also to the dramatic changes in skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic. The reduced staffing was evident in aides trying to care for patients’ daily needs as quickly as possible. Marsha felt the dependence on aides doing for her rather than with her, which required more time and restricted her growth towards regaining independence. She did not think she would ever leave the facility.
Through her roommate, she heard about Money Follows the Person (MFP). She initiated the application process and immediately started researching accessible housing on her own. Marsha, being a proactive person, was fortunate to have found the accessible housing located near her family. MFP staff determined she was qualified for assisted living level of need and helped her get the rental assistance program certificate needed to transition. She exclaimed, “Oh my God, I was lucky to get out when I did!” The MFP transition coordinator assisted Marsha to set up her new apartment, buying furniture and transitional food items. “I felt like a queen!” Being a veteran, the VA assisted her to get medical supplies, a wheelchair, and a walker. Now, she can see her own VA healthcare team again.
Her advice to others thinking about this program, is to not be too choosy to find the “ideal” housing. She encourages others to make sure to check in often with both the facility social worker and MFP case manager on the progress of their case status to assure clear communication, understanding of your eligibility, and expectations.
Marsha, who lives with diabetes, is now able to check her own blood sugar levels and monitor her diet, sometimes even cooking for herself although the food at her assisted living is great. Slowly, COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted at the assisted living, allowing residents to once again share a meal together and join in activities.
“I feel like a real person, once again having the privilege of making up my own mind. MFP helped me get here. My family and I both agree I am more alert now and interested in engaging in life again.” After two years, Marsha was able to see her son who lives in Hawaii for a wonderful family reunion! Recently, the residents had unusual visitors, alpacas from a nearby farm. In the coming months, Marsha looks forward to more enjoyable activities, hoping to return to the beach once again this summer.