Help your neighbors age with dignity
In the past several months, Share the Care Napa Valley has noticed an uptick of calls for help from people over the age of 70 who need money for rent. Many of them have lived in their apartments for years, and now, with the rent raises, coupled with medical expenses and aging cars that need repairs, they’ve discovered that their money has run out. In fact, it runs out every month and their credit card debt becomes a mountain never to be scaled.
In the last six months, we’ve been called in to assist a 72-year-old woman, post-stroke, who was living in her car; a 78-year-old dying man and his bed-bound wife who had just been served a three-day eviction notice because they ran out of money and could no longer afford rent; a 67-year-old woman who needed car repairs to drive to her kidney dialysis treatments three days a week, but had only $240 a month to spend on food and incidentals after she paid rent.
We also were asked to help an 83-year-old man, with diabetes and in poor health, who’s been living in his car, find a room to live in — any room. He had developed a wound on his foot and needed IV antibiotics, but there was no room to be found. He is now still in his car, somewhere in Napa.
These are not the mentally ill, addicted, alcoholic people that we’ve characterized as Napa’s homeless. These are a newly emerging group of aging, sick people who have run out of money. Their $1,200 monthly Social Security payment doesn’t stretch to cover the basics of daily living in Napa County. They are living on the edge and many are going to fall off.
We have no place for these people to go.
They can’t go to nursing homes, they can’t afford assisted living and our shelters are not set up for aging, medically fragile people needing long term care support.
Some are also in cognitive decline and have memory loss, confusion and have lost ability to make sound decisions. And, they will never be able to afford even the basic costs of care in our community.
We need a nonprofit long-term care home for the aging poor in Napa County. These are the people who once worked in our local retail stores, or repaired cars. Once they were carpenters, musicians or handymen. Mostly they’re women who held the low-paying jobs that were all that were available for women in those times.
And now they’re old and they can’t live on what Social Security sends them every month.
While some help with paying rent for a month is available from programs such as CAN-V, Salvation Army, and Season Of Sharing, it is not enough. People who are old, sick and in cognitive decline who’ve run out of money need care, guidance and advocacy. Mostly care.
I don’t believe that Napa wants to see old. sick and confused people begging on our streets. But, perhaps that will the only way to get attention to the plight that is simmering and ready to overflow into the light of our reality.
As Director of Share the Care, I’m hearing the stories. People call, they visit the front porch looking for medical supplies, and mostly they ask for help — help that we don’t always have to give them.
Many people on fixed incomes cannot survive continual rent increases. And, frankly, one way to solve this would be for landlords to just stop raising the rents. Affordable apartments are not so when it costs $942 a month rent and income is $1,200. Rent increases are also impacting people living in senior mobile home parks.
Rising rents are only a part of the problem, the other is health impacted by age. Many express that they never expected to live this long.
As a community, we need to solve this together. I don’t doubt that many of you reading this worry about your own future. What would you do if the money ran out, and you were too old or sick to work?
Let’s start with the thought that we can work for change.
If you’re interested in working with Share the Care in helping us establish a committee working towards the goal of a nonprofit care home for the low-income frail and chronically ill elderly of our community, I welcome your assistance. Please call us at (707) 492-3198.
Director, Share the Care
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