Achieving an independent lifestyle can be difficult for older Americans,
especially those with health conditions which require round the clock
medical care. Such was the case for Johnny Worthen, a resident of Southeast
Georgia Health System’s
Senior Care Center-St. Marys, when he experienced several years of health challenges which required
in-patient rehabilitation. But thanks to a collaboration between the Senior
Care Center and a Georgia Medicaid Resource, Money Follows the Patient,
Worthen is successfully transitioning back into community living as an
independent resident of Camden County.
After two years of recuperation at the
Senior Care Center-St. Marys, Worthen moved out to live on his own on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 –
just in time to watch a Friday night football game from the comfort of
his new apartment.
“The first thing I’m going to do in my apartment, aside from
meeting my new neighbors, will be to watch a Dallas Cowboys game,”
said Worthen. A Jacksonville native, he supports the Jaguars, but the
Cowboys have always been and will continue to be his favorite team.
“I was in high school when Robert Lee ‘Bullet Bob’ Hayes,
an Olympic sprinter from Jacksonville, was drafted by the Cowboys,”
Worthen explained. “I was very proud of him and my hometown during
that time. Bob Hayes and the team was great back then, and I’ve
been a life-long fan ever since.”
It’s been a long road for Worthen to have reached a point in his
life where he can look forward to watching a football game in the privacy
and comfort of his own apartment. Three years ago he moved into a senior
living facility in Jacksonville when he could no longer manage his home
dialysis. Motivated to provide more personalized care, his son and daughter-in-law
invited him to move into their home, but shortly after his discharge,
his daughter-in-law’s health prevented her from caring for him and
he was admitted into the
Senior Care Center-St. Marys.
“That was a very difficult time,” he recalled. “I went
from owning my own home and doing my own chores to living in a nursing
home very unexpectedly. I felt like my life had been snatched away from
In addition to his regular dialysis treatments, Worthen experienced some
additional health challenges while living at the Senior Care Center-St. Marys.
“I was supposed to be discharged last year, but one day before my
leaving, my doctor found blockages in my heart, and I had to have open
heart surgery,” Worthen said, shaking his head. “I was very
fortunate to have the condition diagnosed before leaving. One day later,
and it might have been too late, living on my own.”
As he recovered from surgery, regaining his strength and health, he made
the most of his time. He enjoyed playing bingo and the many themed activities that the
Senior Care Center-St. Marys offers. And he made many close friends, both Senior Care Center caregivers
and fellow residents alike.
“We are so very happy to see Mr. Worthen on his way to independent
living,” said Rhondia Grant, LNHA, administrator, Senior Care Center-St.
Marys, “but we will surely miss him and his singing. These past
two years, our halls have echoed with his serenades, oftentimes the Temptations
classics. Our facility and hearts will be a little empty without his joyful
voice filling it.”
And the affection isn’t one-sided.
“I’m going to miss my friends here,” said Worthen. “During
my time as a resident, I tried to help friends who couldn’t do for
themselves. I would love to come back and visit as a volunteer to give
comfort and companionship to the people who can’t leave like I can.
Making friends here is both easy and difficult because some of the friends
I made passed on from this life. It’s important to me to make them
happy and keep their spirits up while they’re still here, so they
can find love, peace and joy—that’s what this place is all
Nearly a full year after his open heart surgery, Worthen made a second
attempt to begin the adventure of independent living. It will be the first
time in nearly eighteen years that he’s actually lived on his own.
“I’m a little apprehensive about living on my own, but this
is my second chance—both at leaving the Senior Care Center and at
life,” said Worthen. “I’ve been very fortunate to have
received such great care and the rehabilitation therapy that allowed me
to regain my independence. This is just my next adventure. I hear I’ll
have wonderful neighbors—and I plan to find out."