Norma Tramel was confined to the isolation and stigmatization of life in a nursing home for four years after suffering a ruptured hernia that put her in a coma. Once she regained her health, she began to yearn for the freedom that was taken away from her.
After four long years, Tramel was able to transition out of the nursing home and move back into the community. She is now happily living back in her home with her daughter as one of her caregivers. She is now working toward becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.
Tramel is one of the 50 people who transitioned out of nursing homes in 2017 through the support of Liberty Resources, Inc. (LRI). LRI advocates for and with people with disabilities to ensure their civil rights.
When given a choice, an overwhelming majority of people say they would prefer to age in their homes rather than in institutions. Nursing homes provide vital care for people needing a high level of medical support. Yet some residents also find life in a nursing home to be isolating and lacking in many of the joys they found when living independently.
The challenges of life in a nursing home can be even more pronounced for LGBT people. In a 2011 national survey by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, only 22 percent of LGBT older adults in nursing homes reported feeling that they could be open about their identities with facility staff. Forty-three percent reported witnessing instances of mistreatment.
While transitioning out of a nursing home is not going to be an option for all residents, it is important that those who are able to do so are provided with the option to live independently and securely in their own homes in the community.
LRI’s Nursing Home Transition (NHT) department focuses on the steps to independence for those who are returning to the community after a nursing-home stay. The NHT department is guided by Norma Robertson-Dabrowski, who herself transitioned out of a nursing home. The NHT team provides support for people as they transition back into the community, including assistance obtaining housing and coordinating services.
A transition from a nursing home back into the community can cost upwards of $6,000. The NHT department operates a Transition to Freedom Fund, which covers countless overhead costs associated with transitioning out of an institution.
One main barrier impacting people trying to transition out of nursing homes is that there is not enough affordable and accessible housing in Philadelphia for people who are on Medicaid. An entity of LRI, Liberty Housing Development Corporation has worked to break down this barrier for people with disabilities by both advocating for and providing much-needed affordable, accessible and integrated housing throughout the city. There is nothing more empowering than having a place to call home.
Mary Jo Rohrer is the communications and development associate at Liberty Resources, Inc. To learn more about LRI’s services, visit their website www.libertyresources.org. Follow LRI on Facebook @LibertyResourcesInc and on Instagram and Twitter: @libertycil.