Transitioning from nursing home to community living part 1 story of impact: Liberty Resources

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on May 17, 2018 # Mobility, Quality of Life Grant Spotlight

Determining the right long-term care services and support is a crucial step for anyone who is living with paralysis. Too often, a newly injured individual is released from the hospital to a nursing home facility without knowing they have other options. With the right support, transitioning back into the community can be an achievable alternative.

“Fear and uncertainty can become a barrier to living independently,” said Norma Robertson-Dabrowski who has been living with quadriplegia since a 1982 car accident. “It is important to educate people about their options. Many don’t know that services are available to help them transition and build an independent life in the community.”

After her accident, Dabrowski spent seven years in a nursing home before learning about Liberty Resources, a Philadelphia, Pa, not-for-profit organization that advocates and promotes independent living for all persons with disabilities. With help from Liberty Resources, she transitioned from the nursing home to her own apartment in 1991. Her life changed tremendously and she wanted to help others do the same.

Now working as Liberty Resources’ Nursing Home Transition Administrator, Dabrowski is part of a team that meets with primarily low-income individuals living with a disability at 25 area nursing homes. Since its inception in 1990, Liberty Resources has transitioned approximately 1,000 individuals, an estimated 750 of whom have functionally defined paralysis.

“Access to information and housing resources are often the biggest challenges to transitioning from a nursing home,” said Dabrowski. “Once a person decides to transition, more formal obstacles become apparent as they need to gather proper identification items and paperwork. Many do not have the money to pay for the vital documents necessary to take the first step in transitioning, like a social security card, birth certificate and non-driver license.”

To address this issue, Liberty Resources created the Transition to Freedom Fund, a pool of money that can be used to address the financial burden that comes with transitioning and cover expenses during the gap when Social Security Income Benefits have not yet been issued to the individual.

“It takes between $2,000 and $5,000 to transition an individual from a nursing home into the community,” said Dabrowski. “The Transition to Freedom Fund allows individuals to draw on these funds to overcome this systemic barrier.”

Fully financed through fundraising, the Transition to Freedom Fund availability can be limited, and as a result, some individuals may not able to transition. To help overcome this challenge, Liberty Resources applied for and received a Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Nursing Home Transition Quality of Life grant in 2017.

“Transitioning people with paralysis from a nursing home into the community can take up to 23 steps, depending on how much documentation and external support they have,” said Dabrowski. “The funds offered by the Reeve Foundation will help cover the expenses aligned with these steps and help develop new, replicable solutions to overcoming barriers.”

In addition to supporting the Transition to Freedom Fund, the grant will be used to hire five “community advocates,” individuals who have previously transitioned from a nursing home to the community who will share their story and offer support.

Grant resources will also help support a variety of social and skill-building programs. Many people coming out of nursing homes need to be taught (or retaught) methods for managing their own finances, transportation, communication, health and wellness, and legal rights. Weekly social group gatherings also connect people who are thinking about transitioning with those who are already in the community.

“The Reeve Foundation Nursing Home Transition grant provided an incredible amount of much need support,” said Dabrowski. “With the Reeve Foundation grant funding, Liberty will be able to exponentially expand its current services. Transitioning from a nursing home to life in the community is a long-term process. We want to be able to be there to assist with any needs or concerns while they adjust to life independently.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.