Our Vendors 

Doing right by Peggy

Wed, Oct 12, 2011

Jim LoBianco

In mid-September StreetWise lost one of our clients, vendor, and friend: Peggy Jacobsen. You can read our memorial piece on Peggy on page 12. This column is dedicated to Peggy’s last weeks and why her story is a concern for all of us.

Peggy had been suffering from health problems and was transferred from one hospital to another because of her lack of insurance. Upon release Peggy still required significant outpatient care. However, the last hospital placed her in an inappropriate facility. The facility could not provide supportive medical care, which did not stop the staff from taking $500 from Peggy and confiscating her ATM card. In later conversation with me Peggy related that they insisted she give them her PIN or they would put her out on the street. This facility has every appearance of being an unscrupulous and exploitative organization that preys on the vulnerable.

Thankfully, Peggy had the wherewithal to walk out of the facility and hail a cab. Fate provided her with a kind and generous cab driver. As she got in she told the driver that she had no money but felt unsafe where she was and needed to get to StreetWise. The cabbie was so concerned with her decrepit appearance that he drove her from Roseland to the West Loop for no charge.

Once Peggy got to StreetWise and told me her story I started making placement calls. Going through regular channels I could not find any facility with a vacancy that could care for her based on her medical needs. I called the Senior Services Ombudsman Program at the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS). The Ombudsman Program investigates allegations of senior abuse and exploitation. In two hours the senior services staff secured Peggy a placement at The Waterford, (a high quality nursing home facility in Rogers Park).

The Director at The Waterford was a pleasure to work with and, I know, assured that Peggy was cared for with great dignity and professionalism. Within a week of arriving at The Waterford, Peggy was diagnosed with a metastasized brain cancer. Peggy spent her last weeks surrounded by a caring staff who provided her with professional and quality medical care, guaranteeing that she died in comfort and with dignity.

I can only imagine how tragic this story could have been if the stars had not aligned in Peggy’s favor. One more week and Peggy may have died in a substandard facility surrounded by untrained people. Luckily, Peggy got to StreetWise; I got to DFSS; and the senior services team at DFSS got Peggy into an appropriate and much needed placement.

This brings me to my last point, the state of senior services in Illinois. The reality is that Peggy’s story is too common. There are a number of subpar/predatory housing programs that tout themselves as senior care residences when in truth they are shoddy half-way houses with untrained staff. Given the State’s budget situation, we should expect issues like this to get worse. The reality is that when supportive services and oversight programs are cut, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the highest consequences.

I would greatly appreciate your thoguhts and suggestions. You are welcome to contact me at either tipline@streetwise.org or (773) 334-6600

Jim LoBianco
StreetWise Executive Director

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