Realllllly Bad Situation
October 27, 2008 6:35 PM   Subscribe

My friend needs suggestions and advice for a bad situation he's in.

His dad has a compressed vertebrate and is dealing with a lot of pain. In trying to deal with his pain he has become addicted to (prescription) narcotics. He can only walk with the aid of a cane. He works at a news station.

His mother has a sciatic nerve problem and a compressed vertebrate. She too is in a lot of pain and takes a lot of narcotics to deal with it, though she is not addicted, she is still out of it for much of the day. She works as a nurse at a local community center. She too can barely walk, except with the aid of a walker.

My friend is 21, he is living at home and helping his parents as much as he can. He is unemployed, after being fired from a food service job and being forced to sell off his car after it broke down for good. He has a suspended license, and has 6 tickets for driving with a suspended license. The next time he gets pulled over for that the consequences are greater than a mere ticket, possible arrest or more.

He would like to get a job so he can help more, but it's hard to get one when the phone is often disconnected. That and he does not have reliable transportation, as his parents have only two cars, one of which is about to be broken down for good.

His parents have a lot of pets, which they are (for the most part) unable to take care of themselves, due to their health problems. He has to take care of these pets.

They are currently heating their house with 3 space heaters, and had previously been using the oven, which is now shot.

They will most likely be getting evicted sometime in the next few months due to financial problems. Their financial problems are primarily due to their health problems. They have health insurance, but it does not cover very much.

There is often no food in the house for days at a time. I subsidized them recently with a box of dumpstered bagels, after they had gone for 3 days without food.

What solutions exist for a guy in a horrible situation like this? or for his parents? Anything, even just to stabilize the situation.

He has given me permission to post this question and I can provide feedback if there are further questions.

Oh, and please, no pity comments. He's got a truckload of that stuff already.
posted by symbollocks to Grab Bag (17 answers total)
The social service infrastructure varies greatly by location. What is his country, state/province, and city?
posted by mr_roboto at 6:39 PM on October 27, 2008

Response by poster: Marion County, Indiana, USA
posted by symbollocks at 6:41 PM on October 27, 2008

Check your email.
posted by pjern at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2008

Are his parents on disability? If not, they should apply locally and federally ASAP.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2008

How old are his parents? Is either over 55?
posted by kimdog at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2008

Sounds like they're in crisis and need triage. I'm probably not the person to be able to give a detailed action plan, but I do have some ideas.

First, food. Here's a link from the local food bank. On it is a pdf of all of the charities in the area that are possible sources for food for them.

Secondly, sad thought it may seem, ditch the pets. By "ditch" I mean you can help them surrender the pets to a shelter. If even the people aren't eating for as long as 3 days in a row, the pets would benefit from at least being provided for. Also, the stress of having to care with numerous others, even if they're "just" cats/dogs/rabbits/etc. has to make it harder to cope.

OK, that's all I've got.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:07 PM on October 27, 2008

Respectfully, Zambrano's out of his mind. I speak from experience, having an l5-s1 compression, which turned into a ruptured disk.

Now, about the situation:
I would try to get your friend food assistance (food bank, church, charity) first and foremost. If the oven's shot, pick up a toaster oven from goodwill. You can do a lot with a toaster oven.

Two, heating assistance. Here's a listing for application sites in Marion county.

Three, mitigate the financial strain of owning the pets. Rehome them or put them up for temporary adoption. I've had friends who took in cats and dogs while their owners were recovering from illness.
posted by boo_radley at 7:08 PM on October 27, 2008

State and federal disability might be able to help. I would also suggest seeking out a social worker or a counselor who can help walk the family through this process. His parent's doctors might be able to help with that, if not your friend can contact one of the local charity organizations (Salvation Army, St Vincent DePaul, Catholic Community Services etc) to see if they can give him guidence or assistance.

In some states if a family member is forced to stay home and care for a disabled family member, the state will pay them a small stipend per month to do so (since it's cheaper than paying a professional or sending them to a home). Food banks, Meals on Wheels, and food stamps are also options to explore. State funding might also be available for keeping the phone hooked up and other utilities. Again, charity organizations can also help with these things.

I would also make sure that the parents are being seen by reputable pain mangement doctors. There are sometimes alternatives that won't leave them doped up zombies and might make them more functional.
posted by evilcupcakes at 7:37 PM on October 27, 2008

A quick google search for Meals on Wheels in Marion Indiana turned up Life Stream Inc. They offer a variety of services including meals for adults over 60, and assistance to people caring for loved ones. They might also be able to help connect your friend to other service organizations that can help further.
posted by abirae at 8:24 PM on October 27, 2008

First, get them to the local Energy Assistance office where they can fill out a LIHEAP application. Don't let them heat their place with the oven, that's super dangerous, and space heaters depending on how they use them can be very dangerous as well. Secondly, they need to get some food stamps. You don't mention what if any income they have so it's hard to tell what they'll be eligible for. You can use a food stamp calculator to get a rough idea of what they'll be eligible for. Third, his mother may want to consider applying for SSDI, also known as Social Security Disability. The benefit for SSDI is based on your work history so if she's has a long employment history she'll probably get a pretty decent benefit. I recommend that she apply for SSDI and not SSI because SSI is not based on work history and has a maximum benefit of less than $650 per month.

Also, it's probably worth it in the meantime to apply for cash assistance, as well. She can fill out the application when she applies for food stamps.

If she gets confused during this process or meets with complications in her application for disability (which is unfortunately fairly likely) she should seek legal assistance from her local legal aid group. However, the income guidelines for legal aid are generally VERY low, so if she has an income she will likely not qualify.

And tell her to get on this, ASAP. All of these applications take time to process, disability especially takes a lot of time and will probably require visits to a government evaluator who will assess her physical condition.
posted by The Straightener at 8:25 PM on October 27, 2008

The Independent Living Center movements supports enabling disabled people to live as independently as possible.
Here is the ILC that covers Marion country. Their information and referral service is probably a great first stop to finding all the various sources of help.

I notice both parents are working. If they are working full time then they may need help with budgeting more than direct financial support. If they can only work part-time, they may be eligible to get social security disability plus work a certain number hours a week.
posted by metahawk at 9:22 PM on October 27, 2008

Definitely get rid of most if not all the pets. I realize that they may be the one good part of a life that's pretty bleak at the moment, but it's a selfless thing that needs to be done for the pets' well being. If there was an eviction, the pets would have to go -- and there would be little or no time to try to find the best way to get new homes for them. Look for rescue organizations, maybe, or find something. If you let us know what kind of pets they are, maybe some more concrete suggestions would come up.

You'll need something, then, to keep spirits up. I can't tell you what this would be, but people often focus on the practical and lose sight of the emotional -- if everyone's depressed, and you will be after giving up pets, it's really hard to find motivation sometimes. If the family is religious, maybe praying together. If not, maybe it's just being extra nice to each other in some way. Talk to a preacher or someone like that if needed. Just don't neglect your hearts.
posted by amtho at 9:23 PM on October 27, 2008

This should go without saying, and I'm only saying it because I've had to say it to my brother, who also got in trouble for driving with a suspended licence: stop moaning about being suspended, and alter your driving practices so you don't get suspended again. If you got busted for speeding, don't whinge about speed cameras being nothing more than revenue raising devices - slow down. If you got busted for drunk driving, stop driving drunk. Whatever you originally got busted for: stop doing that.

Specifically: since he's already been busted multiple times for driving while suspended, he needs to work out how to get by without driving, right now, until the suspension is lifted. He may not believe he can cope without a car (my brother certainly didn't) but if he fails to do this, he is going to spend a hell of a lot more time without access to a car than he will by just waiting out the suspension period.

Oh, and please, no pity comments

Against my natural inclination, I will comply with this request.
posted by flabdablet at 11:50 PM on October 27, 2008

I've seen some good advice above. Are there other relatives that could get involved?
posted by zippy at 1:06 AM on October 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for all the info so far, it's great to get a crash course in all this assistance stuff, as I have very little experience in any of this.

And no zippy, I've talked to them before about this. They are not very close with any of their extended family and the ones they are close with are not in the greatest situations themselves and out of state to boot.

As far as income goes, I think they get by alright (except for spending a lot of it on medical expenses--monthly hospital stays, prescriptions, etc.--as I previously mentioned), so it might be hard to get them on food stamps, heating assistance, etc. at least until one of them loses their job, which, as terrible as it that is, it seems like it might make getting assistance easier.
posted by symbollocks at 7:01 AM on October 28, 2008

You may also want to reach out to United Way. I've heard they can help in situations like this, especially on the utility side.

Want to n the disability stuff - this is the key towards getting some of the other situations resolved. What i'd really be focusing on is some sort of financial plan, have an awareness of what can improve. If some of this money is due to utilities being, for instance, two months past due, a small change in the way cash flow is allocated can solve a lot of problems. Utility companies can often change the due dates of invoices (generally once per year), so that instead of paying that bill on the 4th when you're out of money, it can come due on the 10th.

Also, despite the health insurance not covering a whole lot, may want to investigate Medicare/Medicaid, and whether or not there are additional services available (a lot of places offer drug dependency programs for free now).

Last but not least - your friend's family needs to invest in a quality second opinion for their medical problems and probably needs to be under the care of a pain clinic.
posted by arimathea at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2008

The news station that the dad works at - do they know about this? If this is the sort of business where people care about one another and help out, they might be willing to help this family get back on their feet again.

I have no idea how one would figure out whether such a thing would work, however it's a possible avenue to find non-relatives who personally care about the welfare of this couple.
posted by zippy at 11:40 PM on October 28, 2008

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