Nonprofits filled in gaps when ailing father needed it most

I’ve been working, volunteering, consulting for, collaborating with and coordinating services in the nonprofit sector in Tallahassee for 21 years.  I can talk about boards forwards and backward, feel confident managing an organization and write about nonprofits weekly. I’ve advocated for the sector, organizations, people who work in them and people who need services from them.

However, none of these thousands of interactions and experiences I’ve had come close to mattering more than when I needed nonprofits to help me and my family.

My dad was a plumber and he worked hard his entire life but went legally blind 15 years ago and was unable to work. He was on a very limited Social Security income and Medicare was his only insurance. In the past six months, as his health deteriorated at a frightening rate, we asked for help and nonprofits stepped up and did what they do best – filled in where no one else could.

Ability 1st, the center whose mission is to help people with disabilities, utilized community volunteers to build a set of half stairs for my dad so he could get into his home.  Dad called for quotes from local companies and it would have cost him 4 months of his social security checks (1/3 of his annual wages) to have one built.

Dedicated to assisting people with vision loss, Lighthouse of the Big Bend helped Dad with assistive methods to navigate things like remote control buttons he couldn’t see and getting set up with Dial a Ride. His counselor Evelyn checked on him regularly and he felt they cared about him. He attended a vendor fair at the Center and talked about being well enough to go to an iPhone class there.

He didn’t have the time or the resources to hire an attorney. Legal Services of North Florida helped by providing templates for a Health Surrogacy and Power of Attorney.  Area Agency on Aging had advisors helping us to unravel the huge mess and mystery that is called Medicaid.

Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare treated him like gold every single time he was admitted. I can’t say enough about the quality of care they provided for him.
And when he was facing the end of his life he moved into Big Bend Hospice House.

Nonprofits fill gaps in the community the other two sectors can’t or won’t fill.  We often hear that the business sector is the most important sector and I’m not sure I know enough or am brave enough to suggest they aren’t. But I can say that almost 100 percent of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in town are for-profit businesses. My sister and I called every single one of them and discovered quickly that telling them he didn’t have a secondary policy besides Medicare was the end of every conversation. I get it. If a business can’t make a profit they can’t provide the services.

Which is why there are so many for-profit facilities opening all over town. None of which would have a bed for my father. Government is constantly under fire by some groups for costing too much or doing too much. The only way a community can provide a true quality of life is if all three sectors are healthy and thriving. If business won’t do something and government can’t, nonprofits will and must.

It wasn’t only nonprofits that were great to him. There are many businesses with heart that do great things and others that would if they could afford to. His primary care physician Dr. Eric Bouchard at Southern Medical Group was simply extraordinary.

Tapestry Senior Living, a for-profit assisted living facility, gave him a discount so he had a safe place to stay while we were trying to catch-up his care plans with his declining health. Although even with the discount, two months of care cost four months of his income and support from my brother and I. He was the happiest while he was at Tapestry but he had to leave because they wouldn’t continue to offer a discounted rate and he couldn’t afford to stay.  The government sector was also helpful. The federal government provided his health insurance and income and local government funded Star Metro’s Dial-a-Ride.

But the nonprofit sector did it best. During the last six months of his life, nonprofits provided quality care while not making him feel less than or unimportant or a bother. The first question they asked was “how can we help,” not “what kind of insurance do you have?”

During that same six months, I watched a nationally waged political war over Medicaid and witnessed funding to nonprofits getting reduced locally and statewide.  I listened to people who could afford good insurance talk about receiving care at top-tier assisted living facilities and I witnessed my father being treated inhumanely in a for-profit nursing facility.  I saw him being given the best healthcare in a non-profit hospital and suffered through the experience he had at the for-profit one.

I have always been ferociously proud of the nonprofit sector and a vocal advocate about the importance of the services being provided. For 20 years I’ve asked, demanded and even begged for nonprofits to be viewed as an equal partner in every discussion about our economy and quality of life.

For the past six months, I’ve also been the daughter of a good man who needed the entire community to care for him.  I needed the nonprofit sector and watched them step up like I knew they would. The least funded and least valued sector of the three. The gap in assisted living beds for fixed income elders is going to be narrowed when nonprofits start running some.

Imagine what our community would have been like for my dad and the thousands of others just like him if he were valued equally by all three sectors and if nonprofits had the money they needed to meet the need.

Kelly Otte is the daughter of Robert “Bob” Raymond Troop, who died on 9/16/17 at the age of 80. Bob was a hard-working man who never met a stranger and had a perpetual smile on his face. Notes on Nonprofits is a collaborative partnership between Kelly and Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting.  You can reach us at notesonnonprofits@gmail.com.

Source: Tallahassee Democrat

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