The Oregonian -- Op-ed column
Two cruel letters arrive for Auntie Evelyn
Recent budget cuts have led the Oregon Department of Human Resources to end funding for a large number of poor people who have huge medical and/or age-related problems. Let's look at the face of just one of these real human beings: my 88-year-old Aunt Evelyn.
My aunt never had any children and never made much money. She worked full time until she was 65, then spent 20 years subsisting on Social Security. To her credit, she managed to pay for her own health insurance until a disabling illness in January 2002 forced her into a nursing home situation. At first she couldn't get out of bed, and she needed intravenous antibiotics and round-the-clock professional care. She finally progressed to an assisted-living arrangement where people could help her with her walker, assist with showering and the toilet, make sure she got the medicine she needed to survive, pick her up when she fell, and offer regular meals. Mercifully, she qualified for Medicaid benefits to help pay for her housing and medical care.
Last week, two envelopes arrived for her from the state of Oregon. The first was a "Notice of Termination of Housing Benefits," and the second was a "Notice of Termination of Medical Benefits." And just how would a frail, elderly woman with severe arthritis, hypertension, depression and progressive heart failure survive without medication and a place to live?
While cutting 24 days from the school year garners a lot of publicity, the old and disabled are easy to discount. Perhaps those who insist that the state hasn't yet cut the "fat" from its budget would like to chip in? Not likely!
Actually, it's a moot point. Auntie was one of the lucky ones -- she died last week. But what about the thousands of others still alive? Perhaps we all need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and take the time to remember that the measure of any society is how well it treats its most helpless members.
Nancy Keating lives in Southwest Portland.