There are some people you meet and you just walk away feeling better. It could be the warm smile on their face or their infectious positive attitude. And one of those people is Julie. Julie is a bright and vibrant woman, a friend, and a host to all who wander her way. When Jeanette Tibstra, our Nursing Facility Transition (NFT) program coordinator, first introduced me to Julie, she was quick to offer a snack, introduce her plant pals, or show off her outstanding knitting talent. Her aura of positivity was made all the more impressive as she explained how she’d spent a year and two months in a nursing home after a spiral fracture to her femur, surgery, and a week in the hospital left her unable to return to her apartment. Following surgery, she was unable to bear weight on her leg for 5 months. The latter part of her stay in rehab was spent building up her strength and relearning many daily living activities.
Over the past several months, we have all had to collectively redefine how we go about our daily lives and activities. COVID-19 has brought changes to how Disability Advocates staff interact with the people we help, but has not changed our dedication to those we serve. Julie can attest to this.
Julie and Jeanette connected in mid-February of 2020, when the social worker at the Skilled Nursing Facility where Julie was rehabbing referred her to the NFT program. When Michigan’s Stay Home Stay Safe order was put into effect, the two had just a couple of in-person meetings to get acquainted and complete initial paperwork to begin planning Julie’s transition back to the community. The two kept in contact with long phone calls, texts, and emails.
There is no such thing as a “normal” transition from a skilled facility to one’s own home, but COVID-19 added its own unique challenges. Jeanette and Julie worked through not being allowed to visit each other or any of the apartments that Julie was applying to. Working remotely, Jeanette assisted Julie in applying and securing a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, which was quickly due to expire with Julie’s upcoming 62nd birthday just 6 weeks after receiving the voucher. The pressure was on to find housing and do so quickly! At many points throughout the process Julie was overwhelmed. Jeanette was there to help and encourage her, and Julie realized that leaving the nursing facility was not only possible, but what she wanted. Plus, she would not have to do it alone.
After months of long applications, waitlists, and a couple of nail-biting extensions for her housing voucher, things began to fall into place. Jeanette received an exciting phone call about an accessible apartment in an assisted living community. This community would allow Julie’s dream of independent living to be realized with the peace of mind that her care needs would be met. Now they could focus on shopping for all the things that would make this apartment uniquely Julie’s.
When Julie’s transition day finally arrived, she admitted to shedding some tears. The big day was 6 months in the making and Julie was anxious about what might happen after she returned to apartment living. The second Julie crossed the apartment’s threshold she walked into an apartment that matched her personality and ultimately felt like home, which she described as feeling good.
After spending time with Julie and learning about her experience with Jeanette and transitioning into the community, I was consistently blown away by the resilience and positivity of this kindhearted woman. After spending that much time in the facility, having some “good toast” that had crunch was something that Julie was really looking forward to. We are happy to report that Julie has all that she needs in her apartment to make some good toast whenever she wants!
Julie, we are so glad you are home for the holidays! Enjoy!