Rachael’s story is representative of many aging adults living with a developmental disability who out-live their family caregivers. Rachael was raised by her grandmother, then lived with an aunt, and lastly her cousin, Ernestine. In 2002, Rachael developed medical problems that required hospitalization. Once stabilized, Rachael needed 24-hour supervision and assistance with self-care. Because Ernestine did not have support at home to assist in Rachael’s care, Rachael was placed in a nursing home.
Preserving a person’s basic human rights and dignity is difficult when living in a nursing home. Residents may have little say regarding the times they get up and dress, eat their meals, get showered and go to bed. From the outside, a nursing home looks just like any other building but from the inside it can feel like a prison.
In August of 2015, Rachael moved out of the nursing home into her own apartment. This is the dream she had envisioned for a long time. Rachael’s ability to transition from the nursing home into the community is a tribute to Rachael’s determination, her cousin’s commitment to do what was in Rachael’s best interest, and the dedication of a paralegal at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Working together with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Rachael was able to obtain a Medicaid waiver. Today, the Medicaid waiver provides support for Rachael in her apartment as well as funding for a day program that she attends on weekdays.
“I love everything about my apartment, my kitchen, my dinning room, the bathroom, the patio. It feels great.”
“When I first met Rachel she was very quiet, seldom spoke up or offered insight into what she wanted, other than to not be in the nursing home. Now you can't get a word in edgewise and she just bubbles! She and her house-mother have a personal handshake and she has a housemate that is near her own age that she can talk to. She shops, talks, takes pictures on her phone, and has a job she is proud of. The best way to describe it is that she is alive. She literally glows and is now interested in everything.”
Paralegal at Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Rachael participates in a variety of activities at the day program she attends. Her favorite activity is working at the front desk a few hours a day as a receptionist.
“This job feels real good. I get a pay check.”