Only Anecdotal

No numbers, just stories

Waiving the Red Flag

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Today was possibly the worst day I have ever experienced in my present job.

In my attempts to keep my ears and eyes open for any sorts of small details that may make life in the real world a possibility for an individual, I usually check my facts before springing forward with the news of a lucky jackpot. I usually research, then check again.. and this time I thought I had. But I obviously had not.

Or more accurately, I was misinformed–by an expert.

I fear–deeply–that the last hopes a man had to keep his wife at home may have dissolved today. In a nursing home, the woman will be able to get funding, but at home? Well, this is what waivers are for, unfortunately. Waivers, because qualifying for Medicaid–the only insurer that pays for long-term care–requires not only a disability, but poverty, as well–hence the waiver. But the waivers vary from state to state, and usually target a specific group of people, often a capped number of them. Rules tend to be stringent: over nine years old with autism? out of luck. Under 60 with need for services to prevent institutionalization? Too bad.

And this is where I really messed up. Even to age restrictions, in certain programs, there are exceptions. If you get SSDI, you have to wait two years for Medicare–unless you have ALS. And in the case of the family I was helping, a diagnosis seemed the best hope for help. But now, we learn that supports will be minimal–and not with the flexibility we had hoped for.

It all makes me think about how much healthcare depends on such studious and constant attention to minute, complex details of not only one bureaucracy, but several of them. It makes me think that when even those of us who are supposed to be knowledgeable of a wide array of programs cannot decipher the possibilities, we are all in trouble.

I am not sure how I am going to break the news to the family tomorrow. I at first thought to head into the conversation with more expert knowledge, with more potential solutions to a very difficult situation. But I think somehow that building this sort of hope right now would be cruel–and only an effort for me to feel better, not an actual, feasible way for a family to stay together with the supports they need at home.

There are days when my stomach knots up in this job: watching a man’s face as he takes in new information from a doctor “No, the dialysis is probably not temporary.” But feeling that there are no loopholes left?

I at first was going to refer to white flags in the title of this piece, but I realized that in spite of this, surrender is not the answer. Letting life happen is one thing: acceptance is often a process that has taken place long before I see people, even in new crisis situations. Flexibility, change, moving on to better things are difficult, but good decisions we can make in the wake of such crises.

But it is more than this. These incidents, ever the more common, I am convinced–especially in middle-aged people with chronic or late-onset disabilities–are warnings to us all. Red flags are up all around us, alerting us to the emergency, the urgent need for Money Follows the Person, and more: to Money Stays With the Person, stays at home. Community First.

Waiver? No. Living at home should not be the waivered condition: skilled nursing facilities should be the exception, the thing that needs a bit of hoop jumping, and maybe a few headaches. I wish that months ago I could have spent my time with this family helping them with living life beyond mere survival. Maybe someday, some coordinator of some sort, somewhere, will have this sort of a job. But until then, the struggle continues.

Written by Only Anecdotal

30 Jul 2012 at 11:37pm

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