The story of Betsy and David Winkler makes me sad and angry. I have a tender spot for stories of dementia: my grandfather suffered from it, and it’s probably the thing I fear most, because of how it steals your identity and control of your own body and mind away from you. Beyond that, though, is the fact that this family did everything right, and is still in this situation because of our garbage economic and political system. Mr. Winkler served in the Air Force for 20 years; and another 20 as a teacher at a juvenile detention facility. By any definition he was an upstanding citizen. Mrs. Winkler was a small business owner, and her business was a success. Had it not been for the onset of Alzheimer’s, they would be living comfortably in their retirement on a more than reasonable $50k/year. They did everything right.
It’s bad enough that we have allowed, ever increasingly so, healthcare to become a for-profit business (there are multiple culprits behind this, but insurance companies, our university system, hospital administrators/boards, professional medical associations, and the government have all had a hand in the pot, starting around the time of WW2). It’s bad enough that we, as a society, have increasingly bought into the lie of aspirational voting—that is, voting for the interests of fat cats instead of the average citizen in the hopes the fat cats will bring us into their fold. But the blatant disregard we have in this country for those in financial and/or physical need, as demonstrated by the politicians we elect, the policies they enact, and our collective unwillingness to challenge the status quo, is disgusting.
This woman is eating from a dumpster so her husband who is, in the most literal sense, slowly losing his mind can be cared for properly. And meanwhile we have a Congress and a President who want to cut funding to vital services that help people in these situations—Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, food stamps, etc.—so they can give tax cuts to corporations that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and pay their executives obscene yearly bonuses, and the wealthiest citizens.
- As of 2015, there are 2.9 million households with at least one senior citizen that are food-insecure
- The average income for elderly households (age 65+) in the US is $38,515
- 75% of Medicare-eligible households spend an average of $38,688 on healthcare each year
- 33.8% of elderly households owe on a mortgage or equity line of credit (or both); 3.5 million have no home equity and are upside down in their mortgages
- The average yearly cost of an assisted living facility in the US is $43,536, and is expected to rise to $58,512 by 2026
- Elderly poverty is projected to increase by 180% from 2010 to 2050
We should all be ashamed of ourselves for allowing this.