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Notes from the Edge: Elders fear the continued shortchanging of Medicaid assistance

Photo: Photo by Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Photo by Michael Barajas

Ruth Lerette

Dependent on Medicaid to cover her costs, Lerette has a son who lives nearby and visits often, but who can’t adequately care for her advancing disease. “If I lived alone, I’d be stuck in a bed,” she said. “I need the therapy and the nurses.”

Julia Aguillon vividly recalls moving from her hometown of Laredo to San Antonio’s Southside over 60 years ago when she met the man she’d later marry. At 94 years old, Aguillon’s hearing and eyesight are starting to fail, but her memory is still razor sharp. “I’m not bragging, but I’m pretty good with dates,” she laughed, rattling off fond stories from the years she worked with S.H. Kress & Co. in Laredo to the day in October of 1950 when her husband proposed at a San Antonio bus station.

With Social Security benefits of just over $200 a month, Aguillon moved to the Sarah Roberts French Home three years ago after a small group of nieces and nephews could no longer care for her. Aguillon’s husband died a decade ago, and she’s since outlived her five siblings. Aguillon’s daughter and granddaughter were killed in an automobile accident 30 years ago, and she has an estranged son who lives out of state.


Linda Joseph, struggling with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, lived on her own as long as she could. But at a certain point her sister and brother-in-law decided she needed close monitoring and moved her to Autumn Winds after a number of incidents stemming from Joseph’s failure to take her medication.

Born in the Beaumont area, Joseph, now 53, said she and her family moved to San Antonio when she was a child. As an adult, she moved around frequently and was in and out of hospitals between Wyoming, Kansas, and Texas as she tried, unsuccessfully, to bring her schizophrenia under control. “I know I had at least one nervous breakdown in Wichita,” she said. “I just can’t live on my own. I get into trouble.”

Joseph is keenly aware of her dependence on Medicaid, and of what future reductions in the program could do to patients like her. She floated the idea of living in a shelter, like Haven for Hope, if it ever comes to a point where she can’t find a nursing home that will take her. “My sister and brother in law have said no, that me living with them just doesn’t work. So I’m not sure where I could go.”

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