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“I thank ELAHP for believing in me and supporting me.”
Talking with Peter, with his welcoming smile and outgoing personality, you would never guess that he almost died twice in his fifty-seven years.
When Peter was in his thirties, he had a college degree, was in a relationship, and was working as a nurse. His life changed forever when his partner died of AIDS. After his partner’s death, Peter attempted suicide. Though he survived, he suffered brain damage. For a year and a half, he remained in the hospital, learning how to walk and talk again. He then spent the next seventeen years in a nursing home. When the nursing home closed, Peter was given the option of moving to another nursing home or leaving on his own. Even though he still struggled with deficits from his brain injury, making independence a challenge, he decided to leave. But he had nowhere to go, so he ended up the Pine Street Inn homeless Shelter.
There, he connected with the Elder Living at Home Program (ELAHP), and with the head injury program at Massachusetts Rehabilitation. He wanted to work, so he joined a program that found him a number of basic jobs. For three years did things like stuffing envelopes and cleaning up in the kitchen at Spaulding Hospital. Unfortunately, budget cuts meant that the program ended and Peter lost his job. Finding other work has remained very difficult.
Finding appropriate housing for Peter was also a challenge, due to his multiple medical conditions. He ended up staying in the shelter system for three years. ELAHP worked with him to find a place to live where he could be independent. Four years ago, they found him an affordable apartment, set up supportive services for him, including a visiting nurse to manage his medical issues, and even helped him get a cat named Diamond so he wouldn’t be lonely.
One day this past spring, Peter told his ELAHP caseworker that he was having a hard time breathing and that he had fallen twice. They called his visiting nurse to make sure someone went to see him right away, then followed up with the nurse while the nurse was with Peter’s in his apartment. Knowing Peter and what was normal for him, what was cause for alarm, they convinced the visiting nurse to send Peter to the emergency room.
A case manager form ELAHP met Peter at the emergency room. Peter was admitted to the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia. As his organs started to fail, ELAHP staff prepared to say goodbye. They had to find a new home for his cat. Miraculously, after weeks in intensive care and months in a rehabilitation facility, Peter recovered and returned home to his apartment.
“I like to stay busy,” Peter says. And now that his health has improved, he wants to go back to work. He is hopeful he’ll find something soon. A companion visits him twice a week at his apartment, and sometimes he goes to a day program for people with head injuries. He loves to read mystery and history books. He writes letters to his eighty-nine year old aunt almost every day, and writes to a good friend whom he met in the shelter. Peter is optimistic about the future and thankful to the staff at ELAHP. “ELAHP was able to help me to get myself together physically and mentally to go out and face the world,” he says. “I thank ELAHP for believing in me and supporting me.”