Beware the Wrangler.

Author:Ervin, Mike
Position:SMART ASS CRIPPLE - Nursing facilities for disabled persons - Essay

Once a month, Ed got a haircut. An expensive haircut. It cost half his monthly income.

There was nothing fancy about Ed's haircut. No frosted tips or anything like that. It was your standard barbershop clip. It cost $15. But that was half of Ed's income of $30 a month.

That's because Ed fell prey to the cripple wrangler. The cripple wrangler is a ruthless bounty hunter. If we cripples don't keep our guard up, the cripple wrangler drags us away to live in a dystopia where a haircut costs half of our monthly income. In other words, a nursing facility.

Wait a minute, I hear you saying. People in nursing facilities can have an income of only $30 a month? How could that be? I'll get to that in a minute. But first, let me tell you a little more about the cripple wrangler. For a whole lot of disabled Americans like me, he's our version of the grim reaper and we're all running like hell to stay away from him. It's what motivates us through life.

He isn't a flesh and bones creature. He's more like an invisible social and political force. But even though the cripple wrangler is fictional, he's definitely real. In my mind, the cripple wrangler looks innocuous. Male Caucasian of average height and weight. No scars or other distinguishing features. That's what makes him so evil. He blends in. If he wore a hooded robe and had glowing red eyes, everybody would know he was up to no good.

The wrangler sneaks up on cripples and snatches us away, like he did one day with Ed. It seems like another comrade disappears on us every day. They end up in nursing facilities. Federal law allows that facility to confiscate all of their Social Security income except for a "personal needs allowance" that can't be less than $30 a month. That rate was set in 1987.

When you reside in a nursing facility, you also relinquish your right to make life's small daily decisions. Someone else decides when and what you will eat, when you will go to bed. If you want to leave the premises, even for a few hours, you need a doctor's permission.

My friend Ed died in July. Back at the nursing facility, he had about thirty square feet of private space--his half of the room, his bed, a nightstand, a closet, and television mounted high on the wall. When I say private space, I should put the word "private" in big fat quotes because in a nursing facility you can't control who gets to be your roommate. A new stranger may be whisked into your room at any moment. Or you may be whisked to another...

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