Patrick Driscoll grew up in Salt Lake City and led a normal life. His many aspirations included becoming a firefighter, archaeologist, and even a roller hockey player.
But at 19, like most others his age, Driscoll hadn’t figured out what exactly he wanted to do. He thought he had enough time to find out.
But on September 12, 1985, Driscoll’s life changed dramatically. He had a rare, contagious influenza that suddenly caused the epiglottis in his throat to swell and block the airways to his brain.
His mother tried to give him the medication his doctor had prescribed, but Driscoll choked and couldn’t get it off.
“I thought I was just having a panic attack or having trouble breathing,” recalls Driscoll.
His mother tried to call his doctor but he got convulsions. When the ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital, paramedics had to do a triage to keep him alive.
When Driscoll woke up he was in an intensive care unit and could not see or move.
“When I woke up [the] I was totally blind in the intensive care unit, ”recalls Driscoll. “I couldn’t see anything, just black.”
When he tried to pick up something to eat, he couldn’t move his hand at all.
The doctors eventually classified Driscoll as a spastic quadriplegic with visual impairment and seizure disorders. Its disability causes involuntary movements and affects all four limbs. Because he cannot see clearly enough to read, he is legally blind under Utah law.
Driscoll spent 19 days on a ventilator in intensive care, seven months in rehab, and more than three years in nursing homes.
At that time, in the 1980s, nursing homes were the only facilities equipped for Driscoll’s disability. But he was only in his twenties and life in a nursing home wasn’t for him. In order to find some kind of peace with his new reality, Driscoll decided that he had to live alone.
To live independently in Salt Lake City, Driscoll relies on caregivers to come to his home twice a day, between 7 am and 7:30 am and in the evening between 9 am and 9:30 am. The caregivers help him with the most basic necessities – getting in and out, showering and preparing food.
“I actually wish they’d pulled the plug and let me die,” says Driscoll, now 55, of the challenge of relying on others for help. “I don’t like having to rely on people for help to get up and do my job [activities of daily living] or brush my teeth, wash my face or take a shower. But in my case I live alone and I really need the help urgently. “
Driscoll suffered from his condition after graduating from high school.
Despite his disability, he began attending the University of Utah in 1991, graduating 11 years later with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 2002. He received help from friends with papers, studied by listening to lectures and books on tapes, and took his oral exams.
“It was difficult. It really was,” he said in an interview at his home.
Each morning, an aide Driscolls puts on headphones so he can take calls and listen to taped books and documentaries. At night, an aide takes off his headphones and takes him to bed, where he stays until a nurse shows up the next morning. He can hold his bladder with his fingers crossed.
Driscoll’s caregivers are designed not only to help him meet these basic needs, but also to administer his antiseizure medication at the same time each day.
But since COVID-19 hit, many of its regular caregivers have quit or shown up late. Not because of the virus, but because of Utah’s unemployment benefit during the pandemic, which is allowing many workers to earn more when they don’t work than their usual wages.
Driscoll has long had problems with the care industry, where workers are often overworked and paid low wages. But since Congress allowed Americans to receive generous COVID-19 unemployment benefits instead of working, problems with the end or late arrival of its caregivers have worsened:
One of my supervisors said he would take the discharge and accept the money. At that time, they were receiving $ 2,400 a month on top of what they received from that unemployment benefit as it is. That’s a lot of money. I just don’t understand why they tried to kill companies like they do with the extra money.
In response to the pandemic and government-enforced business closings, Congress significantly expanded unemployment benefits and relaxed screening requirements. Lawmakers added a $ 600 per week federal bonus to regular unemployment benefits in Utah and other states.
With the additional $ 600 a week, University of Chicago economists estimated, 68% of the unemployed were getting more unemployment benefits than their usual wages.
“Usually you can’t just say they don’t want to work because employers have to verify that an employee has actually been laid off,” said Rachel Grezler, Economics, Budget and Claims Research Associate at The Heritage Foundation. “However, there is essentially no eligibility verification under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is open to the self-employed, gig workers, and anyone else who does not contribute to the system.”
Jennifer Smith worked for another company as a Driscoll supervisor for more than four years. They became friends, and Smith is now helping him out with shopping, food prep, cleaning, recipe refills, and other needs that are beyond the scope of his official caretakers. Driscoll can pay for them through a Medicaid program.
COVID-19 “made a big impact” for Driscoll, Smith says:
As for him, people don’t want to work. People don’t want to work because they make more money at home. There was already one [certified nursing assistant] Shortage or even a shortage of caregivers that persists before the onset of COVID. And now it is even more difficult for them to employ staff themselves.
The Daily Signal and Independent Women’s Forum asked Driscoll’s home care provider, Synergy HomeCare, for an opinion on why its carers quit or showed up late.
The company declined to comment.
Synergy HomeCare is a non-medical home care agency operating in the United States, serving approximately 25,000 customers and employing approximately 20,000 people. All locations are independently owned and operated. The Driscoll site is located in Salt Lake City.
“I can’t speak for the office or what they have [got] going on behind the scenes. I only know that if they don’t have staff to insure people, or if people call in sick or if they quit, it affects my care, ”says Driscoll.
Smith says Driscoll is far from being alone in what he experiences.
“Patrick’s story isn’t one in a million,” she says. “There are a lot of people out there who have problems[s] Get staff and they have problems[s] get decent people who will listen. “
The Daily Signal and Independent Women’s Forum checked Driscoll’s account with two friends and two family members who all receive his calls when his carers don’t show up on time.
“I get to know all of my neighbors just in case I have to get them to help me pick up something I dropped or can’t find, or to help me when I have a seizure and land on the ground, “said Driscoll says.
One neighbor is an elderly man who, since the COVID-19 hit, has had to regularly help Driscoll relieve himself after his carers showed up hours late.
In the past three months, “it has become almost a weekly situation,” says Driscoll.
If someone doesn’t show up, it will affect their whole day and the next.
“Patrick limits how much he drinks so he can hold his bladder at night,” says Smith, adding:
And then he won’t drink that much the next day. And finally, because he’s dehydrated, it affects his health. Patrick is on antiseizure drugs and takes a fairly high dose. Therefore, seizure medication should be taken at the same time each day. And that’s really difficult when people keep showing up. He can have seizures, and he does have them when people don’t show up on time.
In the last few weeks, when his supervisors were late, Driscoll said in an interview: “My little twitches, my cramps are getting bad.”
“If I get my medication in time for the next month or so, I shouldn’t have a problem,” he says. “But when it is much late and more time is available, it can lead to more adverse side effects. Have you ever seen someone having a seizure? “
On March 12, Congress passed President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan, which continues pandemic unemployment benefits, but this time with a weekly bonus of $ 300 on top of regular state unemployment benefits through September.
At the time of this writing, the caregivers for Patrick Driscoll of Synergy HomeCare had still turned up late, leaving him alone, unable to move from his bed.
The Independent Women’s Forum covered this story in collaboration with The Daily Signal. IMF works to develop and advance policy solutions that are focused, fair, and improve economic opportunity, freedom, and well-being for Americans. Learn more.
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