Chronic illness, family disaster, shit sandwich
October 4, 2011 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Seeking resources for a chronically ill adult in the metro DC area, with complications.

I'm in the Midwest. I have a childhood friend in our hometown, near DC, who is 30. For about the past nine years, she has been living with her parents because she has a chronic illness and hasn't been able to work. She doesn't like talking about her condition much, but I gather that she is in a lot of physical pain most of the time. Her energy levels fluctuate but are generally low: she sleeps a lot, is out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, and typically leaves the house only to see doctors. She's dependent on her parents for transportation and cooking most of her meals as well as financial support. She has applied for disability and been denied twice.

Understandably, her mental health is not good; she had trouble with depression before getting sick, and chronic illness will make anybody depressed. (Yes, she is on meds and in therapy.) Her parents are now starting what looks to be a messy divorce process. Her emotionally absent dad has gotten a place of his own. They're selling the very large house they've lived in for the past 25 years, and my friend will be moving into an apartment with her mom, who is emotionally abusive to her. The abuse has been going on for most of her life, but I wasn't aware of it until about eight years ago although we've known each other since childhood. She talks about this very little, but apparently the situation's gotten dramatically worse recently. Her parents are packing up the house and having loud, acrimonious fights regularly, and she's having intense panic responses to their fights that are very hard on her, both mentally and physically. Effectively, her parents are making her sicker.

So: I'm wondering what if any services exist for a godawful situation like this. Any conceivable route to her being able to live apart from her parents, but with access to some sort of day-to-day help? Her extended family doesn't seem to be of any use on this front -- what do chronically ill adults do if they don't have family or partners?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Has she ever consulted with a disability lawyer? It's a pittance, I'm sure, but there is funding (SSDI) and health coverage (Medicare) available if she qualifies as disabled, which may allow her a bit more freedom and independence.
posted by availablelight at 6:38 PM on October 4, 2011

This comment from the littlest brussels sprout offers a very clear look at the types of federal disability benefits, the differences between them, how to apply for them -- and what to do if your claim is denied.

Seconding availablelight's suggestion of consulting with a disability lawyer. According to the littlest brussels sprout, these lawyers "generally work on a contingent fee basis, meaning you don’t pay anything up front, but they get a chunk of your benefits of you win your claim (currently 25% or $6,000 – whichever is less)."

I don't know what your friend's condition is, but this website offers a list of links to organizations and agencies that serve D.C. residents with disabilities. It links to sites that deal with specific conditions (i.e., cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis), as well as to topics of interest to all people with disabilities (everything from advocacy and legal rights to vocational rehabilitation).

Good luck. You're a good friend at a time when she needs one.
posted by virago at 7:45 PM on October 4, 2011

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