Friday, November 18, 2011

Fictional Friday: Carl

"The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
                                                                                 ~Hubert H. Humphrey

The relentless August sun bore down on the single-story ranch home.  Corn fields surrounded the rural Indiana home, and stretched as far as the eye could see.  Within this Hoosier farm-house, a middle-aged man name Carl, who has an intellectual disability, lives with his ailing 79 year-old father. Carl is in his mid-50's, and has had a rather meager  and hard existence.  As a poor farm family, they lived far below what is considered frugal.  Carl has never been to either a dentist or a doctor.  Carl is not able to read or write, he has difficulty with simple math, and requires frequent reminders to bathe and do laundry. Carl's mother passed away two decades ago of a heart-attack.  Carl's father has been in and out of nursing homes during the last year or so, is on dialysis, and uses a wheelchair.  Carl helps takes care of his father, but is barely able to care for himself.  Carl's parents never sought any assistance for him, and had always been his primary caregivers.  And now that Carl's mother has passed, and his father's health in serious decline, Carl's life is rapidly changing.  Carl has a difficult time understanding where his is life is heading, and where his future lies.

Carl has never received any government assistance or help.  He has no income.  Carl has done hard, physical labor most of his life, and nowadays most area farmers have little for him to do.  He lives a barely subsistent  life.  This summer, I received a call from one of Carl's siblings, asking about what kind of help might be available for him.   It seems that once the inevitable happens with their father, the farm will be liquidated to pay for medical expenses, and Carl will have no place to go.

I helped Carl complete applications for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Medicaid Waiver program, Medicaid & Food Stamps.  The State of Indiana has yet to find Carl eligible for the Waiver program, which would provide crucial assistance with things like helping him find an affordable place to live, accessing community resources, shopping, budgeting his money, maintaining his health care, and in-home supports like helping him maintain his personal hygiene and keeping his home clean and livable.  Since Carl is verbal and ambulatory, and can do some minimal self-care tasks, he may not qualify under the state guidelines for the Waiver program .

At best, Carl would be placed on a 10 to 12 year waiting list with some 20,000 other Hoosiers with intellectual disabilities.  If he is fortunate, he might start receiving services around the year 2023.  Carl remains hopeful that he may someday have some help meeting his needs and becoming self-sufficient. In the meantime, what happens to Carl?

There are numerous "Carls" in the State of Indiana.  Many of them are among our most vulnerable citizens, and often can't speak for themselves.  And a good number of them have fallen through the cracks of our society. In a world where we gladly give pop-culture icons our undeserved time and attention, it's easy to overlook and ignore the "least of these."  Sadly, Carl and those like him can't compete with the likes of the Kardashians, Snookies, and Charlie Sheens of the world.   Perhaps someday, our society and leaders in government will be more interested devoting their time and attention in making sure people like Carl get a chance at having a decent life and becoming self-sufficient, and not fall the cracks of a very flawed system.

Note: Carl is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals I regularly encounter. Characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on real stories with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  


  1. Hi Dave. i'd missed you this week, and i'm glad to see your fiction attempt.
    Could you give a ballpark figure of how many individual's stories Carl might represent?

  2. Thanks. Carl is a composite of three individuals.

  3. LOVE Fictional Friday. What a great way to confidentially bring to light these heartbreaking stories.


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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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