Friday, December 16, 2011

Fictional Friday: Carla

Her long, stringy grayish hair swept across the shoulder of her worn, tattered second hand winter coat. The crows feet bordering her eyes reflected a lifetime of hardship and worry. She has a certain look in her eyes that makes you wonder what all she has seen. She is missing several teeth, and badly needs to see a dentist. Her name is Carla, and today has no where to live. Carla is what we call "dually-diagnosed"...she has both an intellectual disability and a mentally illness. Carla has bounced around from place to place, and most recently ended up in my office looking for help. She has difficulty conforming to societal expectations. Carla is strong-willed, suspicious of others, a bit anti-social, and pretty much burns every bridge she encounters.

Carla is 63 years old. She lived in a state institution in Northern Oregon for several years after her mother was murdered by her father. Her father died in prison while serving a life sentence. There are no other interested family members. Carla's life has been far from perfect, and is well acquainted with dysfunction and abuse. After being released from the state facility, Carla lives a weary, nomadic life. At one point she lived with a group of gypsies who traveled the country who scammed people along the way. After being left behind somewhere in Iowa, she somehow made the return to her home town.

Carla has a difficult time following rules. She has been kicked out of various shelters for non-compliance and 'behavioral issues.' She has difficulty with maintaining her Medicaid benefits, and often finds herself without the ability to pay for her prescription medications (which are much needed for her stability). She has been exploited in almost every way imaginable: financially, sexually, and otherwise. Carla's IQ is below the curve of 'normal' but just high enough to disqualify her from being eligible for the Medicaid Waiver. If given the right supports, Carla would still be a challenge wherever she lives, but she could be given the assistance and oversight that would ensure her health, safety and stability, and she would perhaps have some measure of a quality of life.

After making several calls to places out of town, I locate a women's program three counties away that agrees to take Carla. A faith-based program that is long-term. I am sure Carla will be back...but there are no easy answers.  

Note: Carla 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. Did I mention how much I like Fictional Friday. These stories captivate me. What a wonderful way to share about the people and issues that you encounter.


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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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