Only Anecdotal

No numbers, just stories

The Buck Stops Here

with 2 comments

Now, I don’t make the rules that exclude people, the entitlements that are available only in specific circumstances, not so much by need as by some other criterium, among a very few, select criteria. I also was never granted a magic wand, let alone fairy dust, to fabricate the accommodations and assistance for people who have the misfortune of getting sick, hurt, or old in this country. It may well be better here than in a lot of places in the world, but most people are bitterly disappointed, especially those who have long believed in our great country (perhaps even fought for it), when they learn how little help there really is, and just how desperate life can really get.

Now, this is not a cheerful message, I realize, but then, this has not been a cheerful sort of week–or month. It seems that something has happened, whether that is the flu, or the continuation of economic stress, or simply an aging population. But people I saw years ago keep returning, sometimes in far worse condition than they were awhile back.

That said, it seems that professionals I know are pretty aware of many of the programs and services that are available. It is great that waivers and services that were once a semi-secret now pop immediately into the minds of discharge planners and social workers and nurses and counselors of all sorts. Once in a while, I can run through the possibilities and tell someone something new–or I can help make the connections once a person transitions from one setting to another. But once–or twice–or three times–in a while, I meet individuals who have my name on a long, long list of “try-here” resources. Sometimes they have been told that I can work magic, find housing, or psychiatric care, or transportation out of the normal area boundaries.

I am no magician. I am no saint. I try, I know my stuff, but I also cannot lie, defer hope to the next person when I know full well that you and your family are in serious trouble if you are 53 years old, have a demanding job and a spouse who has not worked in ten years, two kids in college and a mortgage–and have a stroke.

Truth is, I never want to tell a person how amazingly limited the options really are in this situation, but I do tell.  Often.

I do not want to tell a person that even though he has lost his entire life savings and home, he still has too much money to get help. I do not want to tell someone that it is a shame she is only 58, because if she were 60, she could get that help, that waiver, that thing that would change everything. But I do tell. I tell the truth.

We have an enormous responsibility when put in the position of providing assistance to people in crises. We want to help, always, I know. But I wonder, more, if at a certain point, the responsibility does not shift in each among us professionals, from the stage of vainly digging for exceptions to the rule, to pushing harder to challenge the rules–or moreover, the mindset behind the rules.

I look now at the enormous changes that we anticipate with a new age in healthcare, with a new term for our president, with new programs and initiatives–and I hope we can do more than talk about progress. We also face a time of cuts, further reductions in the spending on entitlements. We are getting older, dug into lifestyles that never envisioned a time that we would outgrow them. And in so many ways we have found comfort in the here and now, with utter disregard for the future, or for the here and now that we have so carefully hidden from everyday view.

I want to say that the level of caring is not good now, not fair–but changing. I want to feel that change, want to wake up and see a world where people are not driven to despair by the heartbreak of a nation that discards its sick and injured, and those who are neither sick nor injured, but simply different, who also are constantly fighting for a ramp, for a way in, for inclusion. It is hard to watch the bitter realities day after day, and not believe that our country can do better, can be better. I think of Martin Luther King today, as we all must, and find in his “I Have a Dream” speech these words:

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight…”

We could, you know. But until then, I refuse to pretend that things are better than they are. I hope; I dream, but the buck stops here.


Written by Only Anecdotal

21 Jan 2013 at 9:30pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. It was spot on.

    Megan O'Brien

    1 Feb 2013 at 6:38am

    • Megan, thank you so much. It is incredibly hard that choices are often so limited, but we always keep trying. Keep up all your great work!

      Only Anecdotal

      4 Feb 2013 at 6:11pm

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