Nursing home residents: ‘Real people who want to keep living’

A former advocacy outreach coordinator for the Center for Independent Living said it’s wrong for people to think that every resident of a long-term care facility is terminally ill and waiting to die.

“I want people to know that these are real people who have lives,” said Sherri Myers. “Some are in their thirties and forties. They’re people with disabilities and need assistance in their daily lives to some extent. Many would live outside of those facilities if they had the resources.”

She explained, “The Center for Independent Living is mandated to help people in assisted living and nursing homes get out of those facilities if they can and live independently. During the 15 years I was with CIL, I worked with many people who wanted to get out of nursing homes and in to a more independent living situation.”

One of the biggest challenges was financial. Myers, who is the Pensacola city council member for District 2, said, “A lot of people don’t have the money to get out because their money is tied up. The nursing home may have control of their money.”

Another issue is home health services. She said, “My consumers would apply for home health services, but there’s a waiting list with some of these state agencies, as long as three years or longer.”

Myers shared the story of a woman in early thirties who had lived in a nursing home for seven years when she met her.

“She had been in a car accident and basically was in a coma for a very long period of time,” recounted Myers. “When she was better, she ended up in a nursing home. She was very intelligent but had limited use of her hands because she lost most of her fingers in the car accident. She was a great writer in spite of the fact that she only had two fingers that she could work with. She kept extensive journals and sewed.”

She continued, “Her big challenge was that she didn’t have the money to cover rent and utilities, and she needed to be on a bus line. Those kinds of things is what it took for her to be independent and to get out of that long-term care facility. I’m happy to say that she eventually did, but it was not easy.”

Myers told Inweekly about a severe diabetic who was in his mid-forties and owned a recording studio. She said, “His issue was that he often passed out because of his diabetes, go a coma-type state and could not be left alone. So he ended up in a long-term care facility.”

“If a nursing home resident terminally ill and dying, they’re going to be in hospitals,” Myers said. “I just want people to know these are real people who want to keep living.”

She added, “They’re trapped. And we have got to do a better job of providing the resources for people who are in nursing homes–who can get out– to be independent as much as they can.”

This week’s Inweekly cover story is on the newspaper’s efforts to uncover COVID-19’s spread through our nursing homes. Read Nursing Homes: COVID-19 Hot Spots.

Also check out my Outtakes-Missing Voices.