CONFESSIONS– Today is a confession day and it is also a day of fasting. I am not fasting for religious reasons or for protest reasons. I am fasting out of necessity. It saddens me to say it but that has become the new way of life for too many seniors in this country. Despite numerous calls from other levels of government as well as community groups the Canadian government continues to ignore the need for a national seniors strategy.
The Canadian Medical Association has also launched a campaign in an attempt to get the federal government to at least begin a dialogue on establishing a strategy to no avail. For details on that visit the Demand a Plan website and have your voice heard. I find this particularly distressing since seniors now represent the fastest growing demographic to commit suicide.
I have spend the last two weeks running from pillar to post looking for some programs designed to help senior and, in particular, seniors living with a lifetime disability. And all I hear is that my monthly income is to high. For the record when everything is added up I have a before tax pension of $1674 per month but my monthly living costs (strictly controlled) is closer to $2000.
Accessible housing is very difficult to find and my current rent is now $890 per month. The additional costs of wheelchair living, utilities, prescriptions, transportation (restricting my driving to less than 500 km/month = one tank of gas), groceries, telephone, etc add up quickly. The one good thing is being debt free and no credit cards. My car was paid off in 2012 so it’s only maintenance and insurance costs. That still provides more freedom than public transit which isn’t always accessible.
Part of my running around involved approaching the renters assistance people. I am sitting in front of this person in my wheelchair and she suggests that there are “basement suites” out there that would better fit my budget. My jaw hit the floor so I asked her what part of “basement” did she not understand. She looked a little confused so I asked her if she possibly had a list of wheelchair accessible basement suites. Well now I’ve become a “difficult” client and I’m politely told that maybe I should check somewhere else. I’m not sure where that “somewhere” else is but I’ll just keep trucking. According to a nephew of mine I have no pride but I have a sense of entitlement “seen so often in you bleeding heart Liberals”.
What this person in the renters assistance didn’t know was that I had just left a foot care clinic where the door was to narrow for my wheelchair to fit through. This is a public clinic here in Nanaimo and I had just spend twenty minutes receiving foot care in a public waiting room. Who needs pride?
So today is a fasting day but it is a medication day. I currently am on close to $200/month of prescriptions and, of course, we lack a national pharmacare strategy as well so that cost is mine. When I contacted BC Pharmacare I was told my income for 2014 was to high to qualify for Pharmacare but if I could provide my Notice of Assessment for the 2015 tax year which, as you all know, happens next year they can re-evaluate my Pharmacare needs. Well that’s fine for next year but right now I have to get through this year.
I have had some very close friends help me out financially but that isn’t their job. Although I have a few family members who believe I have no pride or self respect the people that really know me understand I do which is why I can’t live off the charity of friends.
And the chances of finding employment haven’t been that successful either. The last three part-time jobs I have applied for have all failed because the business wasn’t accessible to an employee in a wheelchair. It still drives me nuts that something as basic as physical access continues to be an issue in the 21st century.
So like so many other seniors I take my meds every other day for budget management purposes and I use the occasional day of fasting. Currently budget management has to trump health management. What really gets to me is that these various government offices don’t look at what it cost you to live, just what your income is. Octobers challenge will be: do I get new tires for my wheelchair (approximately $80 installed) or do I spend that same $80 having my first oil change in the last year. Life is about choices and how one balances those choices. Today’s balance means a fasting day but it’s not like losing a few pounds would hurt me. Plus I have a place to live and I’m not homeless on the streets like so many others.
On the upside the Jays came from behind and won their game. Watching them win is todays substitute for food. However today is a good day because i am still here and reasonably healthy.