When Treva fell, Social Security and Medicare couldn’t cover her. Her family helped out, but not everyone is as lucky as Treva.

Hi, I’m Cindy, Treva’s daughter

This is a picture of my 78-year-old mom, Treva, a year ago on Halloween. This is not a costume but a severe injury. However, my mom’s story does not begin or end there.

Since my father died, my mother has been living at home with my brother to help her. One day he realized that my mom was getting more and more lethargic. It got bad very quickly. It got to the point where my mom could not even walk, and my brother could not pick her up to get her to the car. He had to call 911 and rush her to the emergency room.

At the hospital, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She stayed in the hospital for three days but, even though she was not well enough to be discharged, the hospital still required her to leave. We had to put her in a skilled nursing facility temporarily. My mother lives on Social Security, and Medicare will cover the skilled nursing facility only for short stays. The system seemed to be working. But then, while still in the nursing facility, she suffered a fall that resulted in severe head trauma, as you can see from the picture. She was again sent to the emergency room and admitted to the hospital.

In the middle of that first night, she had complications and was unable to breathe on her own. The fall resulted in encephalitis and she went into a coma for a couple of days. Meanwhile, she was also diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Once out of the coma, she was readmitted to the skilled nursing facility, where she needed an extended stay due to all her additional complications. Unfortunately, she soon hit the maximum number of days that Medicare would cover.

At that point, even with help from our family, my mom could not afford the skilled nursing facility. Her Social Security certainly couldn’t cover the cost of the required care. We ended up moving her back home and hiring full-time, live-in help to care for her in addition to my brother, who could not handle it all on his own. Had our family not been able to support this option, she would have stayed at the skilled nursing facility, building up debt every day, or — even worse — ended up on the street.

My parents actually did plan for retirement. They owned farmland that should have kept them in good shape for as long as necessary. However, the severe drought and ongoing water shortage cut that income stream to almost nothing. There was no way to see that coming. The farmland had produced significant income for decades, but it shrank to nothing in a very short time, just when my mom needed it most.

The irony is that even with her diminished income, she did not qualify under Medi-Cal for skilled nursing coverage because she was not sick enough and, since she owned her own home, not poor enough. Our family is covering her costs now, but she worries about our finances and honestly so do my brothers and I.

To add insult to injury, there are new California programs at the county level to help seniors, but there are no openings. The waiting list is thousands of names long.

The good news is my mother has recovered from her accident. But she still needs live-in help, and we still cover most of her costs. Thank goodness we can support her. If she did not have a family to fall back on, I can’t imagine where she’d be now. I don’t even want to think about it.

Long-term services and supports along with the workforce required is a crucial part of our community keeping seniors healthy.

Californians are living longer, more active lives, but they need some support. We must come together to make sure folks in situations like my mom, but who aren’t lucky enough to have other means of support, get the help they need.