Hanging in the Balance: a day in the life of a low-income senior and her family caregiver

In honor of November as National Caregivers Month, I want to tell you about Margaret and Sadie. I went to Old Bridge Township, New Jersey last month to meet with them and hear stories of what it’s like to be a daughter caring for your low-income mother as she ages in her home and what it’s like to be that mother and grandmother and great-grandmother aging in dignity. You can watch the full video about Margaret and Sadie here.

During my short visit, I heard stories of Sadie’s passion for cooking, as a 2nd generation Italian-American growing up in Brooklyn, NY. I heard about how she cared for her husband with Alzheimer’s–even when it was too much for her and she fell–because she wanted him safe at home with her. And, I heard about how every piece of the puzzle (food stamps for groceries, Medicare and Medicaid for health care, Margaret coming by every day to supplement Sadie’s home aide hours) has to be in place for this picture of Sadie aging in dignity. If Margaret is needed at home for a sick kid, or if Sadie has trouble with her Medicaid coverage — the whole picture changes.

“Everything’s a struggle, everything’s a fight” — Margaret

And Sadie did run into trouble when she broke her femur bone and had to stay in a rehab facility for several weeks to recover. Because of a coding issue with her Medicaid, she came home to thousands of dollars in medical bills and her personal care hours–which she relies on for all the activities of daily living–eliminated. Luckily, Margaret was there to advocate for Sadie and called a local legal services attorney who called us at Justice in Aging. We were able to get Sadie back into the system, and a lot of other people who’d been kicked out as a result of the same coding issue.

“We are lucky — we have each other and we advocate for each other, but it’s the people who have no one… it’s a travesty… it’s really unconscionable.”-Margaret

This November, we’re grateful for all the fiery advocates out there in homes across the nation. And we’re grateful to be able to work on systemic fixes for those without a Margaret in their lives.

Emma Ayers

About Emma Ayers

Emma joined Justice in Aging in December 2014 as a writer and communications associate based in the Oakland, CA office. Emma serves as blog editor for the new Justice in Aging blog and assists with all written content for the organization. She also supports the communication team’s overall engagement and social media strategy.