Let’s talk economics of lengthy illnesses. This time in our history shows that unfortunately those who carefully planned and saved for a retirement and rainy day are in financial straits. This is also the most expensive of our lives for an aging population and it just so happens to be the largest population in terms of retirement and the financial future of our nation. A point of interest is that the ‘graying’ of our society has more difficulty getting a job than any other group in our nation right now. However, this is the same group which needs medical care and resources which they thought they were paying for as they worked and contributed through their adult lives. This is not a political statement, just a fact.
There are some monetary lifelines out there you may or may not be aware of. The population we are talking about was the generation which objected to our military involvement in Viet Nam, however if you were in the military at any time of war (even if only for one day and you were in the US at the time); you are eligible for some benefits. Please do not assume that just because you choose an alternative to carrying a gun, you are automatically not eligible. Also, there are certain forms of employment which have benefits you may be unaware of. The railroad, mining, in some cases shipping and mariner service, all may provide benefits we have yet to apply for. Of course federal employment is one which provides some benefits. There is a very clear pattern of benefits which is paid out at the state and federal levels (for these benefits look to your state medical programs and legal programs set up for the disabled and elderly).
At this time an overwhelming amount of information is coming at us from the medical, financial, and family arenas. If we can sit down for one visit with a person who knows these benefits, it will be an enormous amount of help. Where to find this person is an excellent question, the quickest way is, to look in your telephone book for Federal, State or County agencies which focus on the elderly and disabled. It is unfortunate that with all our resources in this country we do not have a clearing house with all the information available to us. A good example of this is, Area Agency on Aging and Long-Term Care will be able to help us find many of the answers, however may forget to remind us that our property taxes can be discounted substantially by simply contacting the Tax Assessor’s office and filing some papers (remembering that our property was our fall back if all monies ran out). Should we live in an area of large federal employment base, contacting the local employees benefits advisor will get us started on who is available in our immediate area.
In Washington State we have a group called Columbia Legal Services, which is a wonderful resource for financial eligibility for programs at the state and some at the federal level. There is even more information available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac. There are places for the safeguarding of funds for the surviving spouse and there is ways the well spouse can keep the house for the length of time they remain living there. There are local service agencies which can help with utility bills and in some cases with cash. There are Meals on Wheels to help with food at little or no cost.
We have just scratched the surface of help which is out there. It seems a shame that in a country as knowledgeable and supposedly people concerned, we don’t have a better way of getting the information out to those in need. Many areas have begun the use of a telephone triage or clearing house for some of these services this is 211. Begin with your local services information and then move on to federal services, there is some help we just have to be willing and able to look for it.