Clothing and Citizenship: Nursing Home Money (#4 of 5, for now)

Posted by Dr. El - April 4, 2011 - Anecdotes, Money Issues - 9 Comments

“I wish my boys weren’t so busy,” Greta commented.  “I’d really like to get some new dresses and I have no one to take me.”

Greta’s boys were always “busy.”  There were two names listed on the face sheet of her chart, but I’d never seen them or met anyone at the nursing home who had. When I asked Lynne, her social worker, about them, Lynne’s normally pleasant tone became one of controlled anger.

“Do you know how many messages I’ve left for them?  They never respond!  They just left her here!  I feel so sorry for her.”  We agreed it was a bad situation, made worse because Greta wasn’t a United States citizen and therefore had no personal needs allowance.  She was flat broke.

Greta lamented, “I came to this country because of them, and now they don’t have time for me.”  She glanced at a photo of her well-dressed youthful self.  “I just want to get some new clothes.”

I went back to Lynne.  “Do you think we can get her citizenship?”  A few weeks back the nursing home had held a touching celebration for two residents who had recently become U.S. citizens.

Lynne shook her head.  “I tried.  Her family won’t bring in the paperwork and they can’t grant citizenship without it.”

“That really stinks.  The poor lady just wants some clothes, and she’s got nothing to buy them with.  I actually brought in a couple of things for her,” I admitted.  “I try not to do things for one resident I wouldn’t do for any other, but I can’t help myself.”

Lynne smiled.  “I’ve been bringing her things too.”

“Out of your social work salary, huh?  Remember in school when we learned that the basic needs of human beings were food, clothing, and shelter?  I wonder why nursing homes don’t provide clothing.”

“They can get leftover things from the laundry,” Lynne pointed out.  “And sometimes people make donations.”

This accounted for the fact that Jewish residents sometimes had Christmas sweatshirts, non-drinkers wore beer t-shirts, and men occasionally sported tops proclaiming they were the “World’s Greatest Grandma.”

I sighed, and went home to search through my closet for good-looking items I wasn’t really wearing.