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In 2019 Janine Washinger was teaching part time. Four nights a week you could find her teaching a classroom full of adult English language learners in a public school district on Long Island. If anyone had told Janine she would end up in a nursing home by 2020, she would have responded by saying “they were speaking nonsense.” Well, that is exactly what happened.
Prior to her admission into a Nassau County nursing home, she had a bad case of Bell's Palsy. Her physical condition spiraled downward and caught Covid. Her poor health ultimately led her to being admitted into a nursing home.

Janine has memories of being in the nursing home during the height of the pandemic. Residents were visiting their family and friends through the window because the building was on lockdown.

Janine refers to 2021 as “the year without sunshine.” The residents were forbidden to leave their units. The only exposure to the sun was an occasional medical appointment to a nearby medical center.
As Janine was recovering, she was then concerned about transitioning back into the community. She referred herself to the Open Doors Program when her planned discharge fell through because the agency she was using to help her find aids was unsuccessful. The support she received from her Transition Specialist Lisa Coady with Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO) was just what she needed to restore her hope and gain confidence to successfully rejoin the community and live independently once again in her apartment.

Lisa also assisted Janine with setting up Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA) home care so she could recruit and train her aids. Janine felt she was not receiving enough authorized home care hours, leading Lisa to refer her to the Independent Consumer Advocacy Network (ICAN) to appeal the decision. Lisa also got her connected with a health home care manager, free tax filing assistance, and food from a food pantry.
Because Janine was such a strong advocate for herself, the Transition Specialist (TS) suggested Janine become a Peer Advocate to help others who want to transition to the community. In August 2022 she was hired by SILO as a Peer Advocate.

Happy to be able to cook and bake again, Janine had a long list of all the foods she missed while in the nursing home. Lasagna, chocolate chip cookies, and even Irish Soda Bread on Saint Patrick's Day were some of the highlights.
Janine also benefits from the Good Neighbor Program.
“I met Ray today in person. He already did an amazing favor for me. I forgot the password to my laptop after two years of not using it. Ray took the laptop to Best Buy and they reset it then and there and for free! I told Ray you really are a good
really are a good neighbor!"

One of the biggest takeaways from her experience in the nursing home was her desire for people not to assume anything about anyone. During her stay, she met many wonderful people who prior to their nursing home residency were successful members of the community. One man was a former military career officer who bragged about his garden and the fresh tomato sauce he made with his very own homegrown basil. Janine befriended a lady who was largely ignored by the rest of the residents. After conversing with the woman Janine found out she was a former manager of the Waldorf Astoria, one of the most elegant hotels of Manhattan.
“Everyone has something of value to share,” said Janine. Although at any point one of us could end up in a nursing home, we certainly would not want to be identified as "a nursing home resident." Instead, we all should be identified by the individual characteristics which make us unique.