L-R; Robyn Nathan,Supportive Housing Coordinator; Casey Johnson, Transitions Care Manager; Deb McGrath RN, and Nancy McGrath, CSSM RN

Supportive Housing Provides an Alternative for Independent Living

When Evelyn moved into supportive housing in Peabody in May of 2017, it represented a major accomplishment. It was July of 2016 that Evelyn, at age 70, suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side.  She had to learn, among many things, how to walk again.

After a long hospital stay, Evelyn was admitted to a rehab and nursing facility in Peabody. As she recovered and improved, she began to think that she did not want to return to the skilled nursing home where she had been living in Salem.  Evelyn hoped to live more independently but with the supports she would need.  After expressing her interest in community options, Evelyn met with Nancy McGrath, one of North Shore Elder Services’ CSSM (Community Screening Service Model) registered nurses.

Nancy’s role was to determine if Evelyn met the eligibility criteria for MassHealth to pay for her stay in the rehab facility. When Nancy learned that Evelyn wanted other choices, the conversation about those options began to take place.

Nancy joined up with North Shore Elder Services’ Transitions Care Manager, Casey Johnson, to meet with Evelyn. After several meetings and discussions about the available living facilities, Evelyn and her family arranged visits to tour her options.

Evelyn felt Central Street supportive housing in Peabody could offer her all she needed and wanted. There was immediate availability.  Through the concerted efforts of Nancy McGrath, Casey Johnson, Robyn Nathan, the Supportive Housing Coordinator at Central Street, and Evelyn’s children, she is now able to call Central Street home.  “Everyone was so wonderful in making this change work for me.  I love it here.  It is a great place to be and I can get the help I need, which is so important to my kids and me.  It gives them peace of mind as well.  I feel better in a place like this where I am not a burden.”

Through the Choices program, North Shore Elder Services provides Evelyn with personal care twice daily to help her shower and dress. She also has help with laundry, housecleaning, and shopping.  NSES’ Deb McGrath is the Registered Nurse now assigned to Evelyn. There are supportive aides at Central Street twenty-four hours per day so Evelyn feels she is never alone should she need help.  She is independent in fixing herself breakfast and lunch and her children make sure she has meals available in her fridge for her dinners.

Supportive housing was developed to create an “assisted” living like environment in state funded public elderly/disabled housing. North Shore Elder Services supports the programs locally.  Residents living in public housing have an opportunity to access a model of affordable supportive housing that promotes independence and aging in place.

Evelyn credits her gratitude and positive attitude for successfully adjusting to her new home and to life after a stroke. She spent many years in an unhappy and difficult marriage but she found the courage to leave the marriage, get a job, and support her three children.  “It was not easy.  I had a terrible life but I was not giving up.  More than anything, I wanted to make things better for my children and to raise them into good people.  My kids are amazing wonderful people.  It was quite a feat and something I am proud of.”

Evelyn is driven to enjoy life and appreciate all that she has because she had been in such a negative state for many years. Now she counts her blessings.  “I walk, but I don’t walk great, but I am lucky – I walk.  I am just happy.  Life is to enjoy and if you are sitting in self-pity all the time, you are not enjoying life.”

After years of not having her own voice in a marriage, Evelyn is finding that voice. She is able to say what she wants and this played a role in her being able to move back into the community and out of a skilled nursing facility.  Determination and bravery have brought her to this point.  Despite her health setbacks, Evelyn is open to growing, changing, and figuring things out.

“I just want to be happy and enjoy what I have left. I was so miserable in my life.  I do not want to feel that way anymore.  I have made my peace and moved on.  I make the best of everything.  That is the kind of attitude I have.”

If you or a friend or family member is expressing an interest in supportive housing or in transitioning from a long-term care facility to living in the community, call North Shore Elder Services to find out how we can help.

Evelyn’s story is a great example of our staff successfully working as a team to assure Evelyn’s voice was heard and her needs met. It was a collective effort to help Evelyn. Now she believes in herself and knows that she can continue to succeed and thrive.

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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