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Residents eager for payday

November 9, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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At the beginning of October, I heard loud voices coming from the front lobby. This facility has a glassed-in cubicle outside the business office where residents, visitors, and others can make inquiries without being able to make physical contact with the staff person. On this day, I saw several residents lined up at the cubicle. They wanted to know when they would get their Social Security monthly expense money. Some of them had sob stories. Others said they had necessities to get. They used every method they could to convince the staff person that they needed their money that day.

I have not seen anything like this before. At my former facility, I never checked to see if my money had arrived. I knew what day it came and I had other funds to use. I also never heard any arguments from other residents inquiring about their funds. However, I do know that several residents checked their account to be sure there was enough for an outing with the activities lunch bunch.

But here it is definitely different. In early November, residents began asking again when they would get their money. A few argued with staff and each other and a couple almost came to blows. They were upset because they would not get their monthly expense money until after November 3.

Since the business manager is housed at another facility, it is a big deal when she shows up at the beginning of each month. She passes out a handful of envelopes each containing a resident's cash. After the envelopes are distributed, there is quiet and smiles all around.

Obviously, $30 or $40 a month is not even pocket change for most working Americans. But it is the expense money provided to nursing home residents for clothing, shoes, and other sundries. The regional ombudsman's office for my former facility introduced a bill that would increase the monthly expense amount. Unfortunately, the bill found little backing, but at least agencies are aware the funds are miniscule. Even if a resident was a keen Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift shopper, I do not think their monthly expense money could meet all of their needs.

Payday evening is also quite busy here. Some residents want to order out, which they are not allowed to do on their own. Orders for diabetics and others on special diets must be approved by their nurse before an aide calls them in.

An hour or so later the facility is filled with the aromas of pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese. Residents hurry to their preferred spots to eat the food they have waited a month for. I was shocked when a resident ordered a $12 pizza for herself. The staff explained that most residents only think about the here and now.

Some residents want to go shopping, especially smokers who need to buy cigarettes. But after payday, residents seldom mention money. The staff said some residents get all or much of their money on payday. Other resident get money to use each week. I do wonder if any of the residents are savers.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...