Aunt G, or Gladys as everybody else calls her, is sitting by the window, drooling. Her bib had slipped below her ample bosom and her posture in the wheelchair did little, beyond allowing any lost articles to land in her lap instead of on the floor. It was my job to make sure she got changed, washed, dressed, and fed; all this needed to happen before I left for work in the morning, during my lunch hour when I rushed home, and after work when I got back again. The in-between times were the domain of my cousin Amelia, who did little more than watch daytime talk shows and let the woman who raised us remain wet, grimy, and hungry until I showed up.
Aunt G worked as a domestic all her life; her retirement was, at best, paltry. We tried to get her some insurance beyond Medicare; we are her only relatives left–Amelia can’t read well and I’m too busy working, so understanding all that mumbo-jumbo about part-this and part-that makes it tough to cover all Aunt G’s bills. She didn’t make enough through Social Security and retirement to be able to live in a nursing home. I can’t quit my job (Amelia don’t have a job, but anyway…) and can barely keep food in this place. I wish there was another way.
Today’s Daily Prompt asks a sobering set of questions:
Is access to medical care something that governments should provide, or is it better left to the private sector? Are there drawbacks to your choice?
The story I wrote above is fictional, but based on some very real things that I’ve taken from news reports. Our functional poor and elderly are stuck in a difficult place–how to live with dignity over against how to receive appropriate care when the budget does not allow for food and medication to be purchased at the same time in the average month. I live in the United States, so that is all I know well; there is a prejudice against the elderly, the poor, and the sick in so many sectors of life here. My nana ended up in a nursing home that was supposed to be the best in town; that was back in the day when you could smoke anywhere and trust me, the nurses spent more time smoking than they did caring for my nana. She was a proud woman and I hated seeing her cry daily about being there, about being treated as so much flotsam.
I feel blessed to have contributed to our tax base since I was 16 years old. I finally am in a place where there is a decent amount of money going out of my paycheck and into retirement; will it be enough for me to walk away from everything, buy an RV and travel the globe like a friend of my mother’s did when she retired? Doubt it. But there are days when I am confident that I will live modestly but well. I continue to pray that solutions are developed that will allow the system into which I and so many others have been paying to be there when we need it, when our children need it, and beyond.