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Hidden costs of illness or injury

Welp, it looks like I’m not only going to live, I’m actually on the mend. Yesterday it was off to the orthopedist. From his PA I learned that the ER staff were incorrect in their thought that the dislocated shoulder was also fractured. The orthopod searched the half-dozen(-plus) X-rays and could find no sign of a break.

Better yet, the PA estimated a 95 percent probability that no serious soft tissue damage had occurred. He said they believed the shoulder will regain 100 percent of its function within a few weeks, possibly as soon as three weeks. He got rid of the hated arm sling, described a couple of easy therapeutic exercises, and said that I should use the arm to do any  normal daily activities that don’t hurt unduly or involve lifting heavy stuff.


Having one arm out of commission for a week was an enlightening experience. It gives you a good feel for how difficult things can be for folks with even a fairly minor disability. And for how much “even a minor disability” can cost.

I’m not talking about medical bills here. It’s that being unable to perform certain daily tasks can rack up costs that you don’t think about, especially when you live alone and there’s no one to help you.

Because Easter weekend was so busy, by Sunday night (when the Great Fall happened) I hadn’t done the laundry, changed the sheets, or cleaned the house. And because Holy Week itself was very busy, the prior weekend I hadn’t found time to wash the sheets, either, so by the time I hurt myself they were already dirty.

Though I’d managed to beat back most of the rain-generated weeds, if you miss a couple they’re soon as high as your belt buckle. Within a few days, exuberant milkweeds and thistles were reaching toward the stratosphere, front yard and back.

The pool has never settled down since the water was changed. The acid level refuses to return to normal. This means that every time I think of it (which isn’t often enough), I have to add another pint or two of acid. Adding acid entails dipping up a bucket of water, carefully pouring the acid into it, then holding the heavy bucket over the pool’s surface above an active inlet port and slowly pouring in the acidulated water. Because acid is heavier than water and drops to the bottom and because Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner invariably zips to the spot where I’ve dumped the acid, as soon as it’s in I have to dip and forcefully dump several more bucketsful of plain water into the pool to mix the stuff as best as possible. It’s not something you can do with one hand.

Neither is cooking. If you don’t eat junk food and you don’t favor convenience foods, the larder is full of things that require great heaving of pots and pans to prepare. To slice an onion, you need two hands. To slice a piece of meat: two hands. To cut up a tomato…etc.

M’hijito came by twice a day, on his way to and from work, to get me into the damnable sling after the morning shower and the afternoon mini-exercise routine. I could not get into it by myself. And he cooked a bunch of pasta and minced a store of garlic  so that I could fix something to eat, one-handed. La Maya opened cans of beans and tomatoes for me. But there really wasn’t much anyone could do about all the rest of the survival chores, because they both had to go to work and they both have their own responsibilities.

I figured that if it took more than a couple of weeks to recover some function in the arm, I was going to have to hire a cleaning lady ($80 to $100 a day), a pool guy ($25 to $50 a hit), and Gerardo to beat back the weeds ($75). And despite having a month’s worth of food in the house and nothing left in the budget for groceries, I was going to have to go back to the store and stock up on things that could be heated in the microwave or the oven. Expensive and, to my taste, not very appetizing; but sooner or later I would have to eat something other than reheated pasta. That would probably cost another hundred bucks.

Meanwhile, it was all I could do to drag myself to class. By the time I walked out of the afternoon class, I was so exhausted I had to sleep. Grade papers…are you kidding? One of my former RAs read last week’s raft of English 102 papers, to the tune of fifty bucks.

Yesh. For a week or so of impaired function, we’re looking at costs of $330 to $375, just to stay abreast of a part-time job, keep the house running and tolerably sanitary, and put manageable food on the table. How much this would amount to if the healing process stretched over the predicted 12 to 16 weeks, I do not want to contemplate.

6 thoughts on “Hidden costs of illness or injury”

  1. My parents–now just my mother–had/have some kind of insurance that pays for an aide in just such cases. It’s not terribly expensive. My father had an aide after knee surgery; my mother recently sprained her wrist and had an aide for several months. If you are interested, I’ll find out the name of the insurance.

  2. I’d be interested too, I’d like to make sure my parents are covered if anything else happens at home, especially now that I’m not there and money’s even tighter.

  3. I am so sympathetic, having just had a financial disaster related to the hidden costs of cancer. Because you have a mobility impairment, if your doctor will certify it, your insurance may cover a home health aide for a little while. Check into it before you hire that housekeeper. Hope you feel better soon!

  4. OK–My mother has a policy either w/ or called “Senior Health.” The company used to be called Conseco. Number is 18774505824. She said you need to be under 65 to get the insurance.

    She said there are many companies offering similar plans–some include nursing home care etc. Her policy covers in home aides for a certain period.

    She can’t remember the cost. Since my father died, the policy is now free (????).

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