Four years ago, Norman LaFleur was living in the back room of his sister’s house when the cold temperatures and damp air caused him to get pneumonia and complications related to his diabetes. After initial treatment in the hospital, a social worker recommended that he finish his recovery in a nursing home. The move to the nursing home was well-intentioned, but Norman quickly found himself stuck there, with no options to help him get out.
“It was lonely there, and I felt stuck. I wanted to get out,” Norman said. “The nursing home was not made for me.” Norman, 48, was not alone. He was one of a large number of individuals with disabilities who are living in nursing homes but don’t need to be.
Ann Arbor CIL staff member Julia Plaggemeyer heard about Norman and got involved. The CIL’s Nursing Facility Transition Program, funded through Medicare, and done in collaboration with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and the Department of Community Health, helps individuals like Norman move out of nursing homes and achieve an independent life in the community.
Norman has four disabilities that posed challenges to his moving out of the nursing home. He has diabetes that requires him to get insulin three times per day. He has a vision impairment that makes it difficult for him to read a glucometer and administer the correct dosage of insulin on his own. He has neuropathy, which causes him to need a wheelchair to get around. And he has kidney disease that requires him to need dialysis three times per week.
Despite these challenges, Norman was motivated to achieve an independent life. To enable a move, Julia worked with him to secure an apartment and arranged for appropriate household items. She coordinated in-home chore services, nursing services, and training for Norman to learn how to treat his diabetes independently. She also helped identify accessible transportation for him to get to kidney dialysis appointments. Finally, she helped advise Norman on the significant event that was about to take place.
Before moving day, Norman said, “I was nervous. But I was excited, too. I knew I had to do it.”
“Looking back, I realize what an incredibly life-changing event Norman went through and how privileged I was to take part in it,” Julia said.
The transition to an independent life in the community went as planned. Norman now goes to kidney dialysis three times a week and uses accessible public transportation to get there on his own. He prepares a lot of his own meals in his apartment but says with a smile, “I order out once in a while from Jimmy John’s. I really like that place.” Norman also goes downstairs and sits outside with his neighbors regularly. “We talk about different things,” he says. “And I go places by myself. I have freedom.”