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Profile: Blanche

Blanche, a 62-year-old former home healthcare worker of 35 years, is a recipient of Social Security disability benefits. After a long career of caregiving for patients in their homes and local hospices, along with raising her own two children, Blanche became disabled at 58 due to a serious case of asthma and an injured knee. Because moving patients (for bathing, eating, and getting to medical appointments) comprised a large part of her work, Blanche’s physical conditions meant she was no longer able to perform her job.

“I couldn’t take care of patients the way I used to. I couldn’t do my job anymore, so I grew more and more depressed until I was forced to apply for disability.”

Blanche received her first disability check when she was 60, following a two-year wait that included a year-long application process and an additional year’s wait to assure the government that she was physically unable to work.

Never having earned more than $8 an hour, Blanche and her husband have little in savings, few investment options, and only one pension to look forward to. Her portion of the household monthly income dropped from $600 to $432 with the implementation of her disability benefits. If it weren’t for Social Security, Blanche would have no other way to replace her prior income of $600. Her husband plans to retire this summer, so the pair will depend on Blanche’s benefits more than ever.

Blanche’s financial and health challenges mirror what millions of other midlife and older women also face: “I am currently recovering from breast cancer I was treated for two years ago. I depend heavily on prescription drugs because of my past illness and my chronic asthma. I estimate I spend $200 on co-payments alone through my husband’s health insurance. I don’t know how we are going to pay for all of my prescriptions when my husband retires and loses his health insurance.”

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