Jack's life is no longer up in the air

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Community Transitions client Jack with his Transition Coordinator Mary Beth
Community Transitions client, Jack, with his Transition Coordinator, Mary Beth. 

Jack knows all too well how dull life can get in a nursing home, so he makes a point of visiting the friends he made when he was living there.

“One lady has been there 10 years,” he said. “I can’t imagine. The people are fine, but it’s just the same thing every day. I was only there 90 days but that was enough. I made some friends, but overall, it’s a sad place.”

At 61, Jack seems way too young to have been in a nursing home, but like many younger residents, he needed a place to recover from a serious illness and then additional circumstances in his life conspired to make it difficult to leave the facility.

Jack was one of the lucky ones, though. Once he was identified as a candidate for Ohio’s Home Choice program, things quickly fell into place and he was able to leave the nursing home and move into a new apartment. Kroger in Cherry Grove, where he works in the meat and fish department, had also held his job open for him. So, he was all set to go.

“I had a big circle on my calendar,” he said.

Home Choice is an Ohio program that helps nursing home residents return to the community through services such as finding an apartment, paying the security deposit and buying household furniture and supplies.

Council on Aging (COA) has two Community Transitions coordinators who work with hundreds of nursing homes in our region to identify residents who are able to leave and live on their own again.

Home Choice makes that possible for those who have no home to return to. In addition, some people need help to live independently and may qualify for in-home care services through Council on Aging. COA works with organizations such as Easter Seals TriState, which handles housing and other necessities.

Ohio has been a national leader in this program, transitioning nearly 7,400 people out of nursing homes since the program began in 2008. Nearly half have been between the ages of 22 and 59.

Jack’s journey began more than a year ago when he left his job as a bridge painter and moved in with his sister and brother-in-law in Batavia. After traveling all over Ohio and Michigan painting bridges for 16 years, Jack longed to stop climbing around high places and have instead a “normal job.”

He found one at Kroger and has been doing well at it. “We have the secret shopper program and every time I get one, I score 100,” he said.

Earlier this year, he contracted pneumonia, although he didn’t know it at the time, and he let it go for so long that he wound up in the hospital in intensive care and had to have surgery.

“I was in the hospital almost a month,” Jack said. “I weighed 198 and dropped to 140. My arms and legs were just little wrinkles. I hated being weak. I mean, I just hated it.”

While Jack was rehabilitating at the nursing home, his sister and her husband broke up, putting an end to Jack’s living arrangement. Through his sister and a social worker at the nursing home, Jack heard about Home Choice and met with Mary Beth, one of the two Community Transitions coordinators for Council on Aging.

“I did the evaluation and it was clear that Jack was temporary at the nursing facility,” Mary Beth said. “He is the perfect example of the kind of person the program is made for.”

With the help of Easter Seals TriState, Jack and his beloved little dog, Rose, moved into his new apartment last June. He returned to his job at Kroger. He health continues to improve and he does not need any in-home care services. As part of Home Choice, he will be assigned to a case manager contracted through the state of Ohio who will stay in touch with him for about a year.

“It’s worked out perfect,” Jack said. “This place is nice and I’ve got money in the bank.”