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Caring for Others through COVID-19, yet Uninsured

By: Shirley W., Lee County

I’m a 62-year-old uninsured Registered Nurse. I’ve worked as a nurse for 30 years and love the work that I do. At the same time, I have to say that I would love to retire. But the truth is my husband and I need the income so we can pay off our debt. We’ve done all the calculations and it looks like we’ll have everything paid off in about four years. Then, I plan to sit down and relax.

I did have a full-time job with full health benefits. I was working as a weekend Nursing Supervisor at a Nursing Home. Then I was fired because I disagreed with the Director of Nursing about how our patients should be treated. He thought that every patient who was declining should be sent to the hospital, unless they were under Hospice care. I disagreed with him. This all happened right before the COVID-19 pandemic which made finding another job that much harder. I couldn’t find anything full time, so I went ahead and filed for Social Security. My monthly Social Security check is less than it would have been had I waited until I was 65. But waiting wasn’t a possibility. I was also able to take a part time nursing job that allows me to make my own schedule.

My husband is 11 years older than I am and is no longer working. Like me, he took his Social Security when he turned 62 years old. After we pay for his Medicare insurance, we have $234 left over each month. Now that I have applied for Social Security, he gets an additional $409 each month. Since I’ve been working, my bi-weekly paychecks have varied from $275 to $1000. It all depends on how much work I can get.

Despite our Social Security income and the income from my job, we are still struggling to make ends meet. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck. We can hardly afford to cover our rent and basic household bills. We don’t eat elaborate meals – mainly lots of soup, eggs, and pasta. There’s no way that I can afford to pay for health insurance.

I work in home health which comes with a lot of flexibility, but there are also some safety issues. My patients vary from very wealthy to very poor. Some patients are baby boomers and others have issues with drugs and alcohol. Some homes have guns in them. Some patients can be sexually inappropriate. You just never know.

I can tell you that COVID-19 has turned our world and my profession upside down. I never would I have thought this would happen. We simply weren’t prepared. There are no N95 masks at my agency. In fact, the surgical masks were on back order, but we got them in just recently. I try my best to take all of the advised precautions, because I can’t afford to get sick. I definitely can’t bring COVID-19 home to my husband.


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