A few years ago I broke my leg and was confined to a wheelchair. I could use crutches only sparingly because of an inner ear problem that somewhat affects my balance. Normally I don’t even notice it unless I turn around really fast, but trying to balance on a pair of crutches was a different story altogether. So there I was, confined to my apartment like a prisoner. For someone who had never broken anything before and could always get up and move around, it was a harrowing experience. Little things like getting through a doorway or going down steps became very difficult or impossible. And things you take for granted like going to the drugstore or grocery or doing your laundry and taking out the trash are no longer possible without someone’s help.
It was a long three months, but with the help of my friends and a twice a week physical therapist, I was able to get by. Susan was great. She brought me a walker and taught me how to go up and down the five steps to my apartment with it. (You used it like a crutch on one side while holding onto the railing with the other hand and then popped it back open when you got to the bottom.) That way I could get outside for a while each day. You’d be amazed how much you appreciate a little fresh air and warm sunshine after being cooped up inside all day. And my two friends, Ellina and Ruby, would come by and take me down to the Loop, St. Louis’ shopping and entertainment district and push me around. We’d window shop, have lunch, and sometimes take in a movie. It made those three months bearable. A few other friends, Patrick, Robert and Kay, helped me with the trash, laundry, and grocery shopping and most importantly, came by and kept me company.
You can get by with a little help from your friends, but often that’s not the case for a lot of our area seniors who have lost their home care and end up having to go into nursing homes. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com) a lot of seniors can get lost in a medical gap when they have too many assets to qualify for Medicaid and lose their home health care services due to cutbacks, and since the needs of these seniors are continuing and not due to a specific condition, Medicare won’t cover them. Federal and state money is funneled through the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging to pay for these services. They include help with preparing meals, and doing things like taking out the trash, doing laundry, house cleaning, shopping, and personal hygiene. These funds have been cut by $500,000 recently.
When the seniors can no longer care for themselves, they usually end up in nursing homes. They exhaust what little savings they have and end up on Medicaid. Not only are the living conditions and care deplorable in many of these places, the cost is also more than the in-home care, about $127 a day minimal for a nursing home compared to $17 an hour to have a home healthcare worker come in for a few hours a day a couple of times a week (source). So it really doesn’t make any sense to deprive seniors of their home, some of whom have lived there for 30 or 40 years, put them in a nursing facility and spend more of our tax dollars doing it.