Lara Evans tries not to let her illness define her life. The Atlanta resident has other priorities, like her three kids, her first grandchild on the way, and a love of bowling.
But she also lives in pain. Because of her rheumatoid arthritis, her joints are often swollen and painful. She uses a cane, sometimes requires braces on her wrists, and at times finds it very painful to move.
“When I miss my medicine, I know I haven’t taken it,” she said, explaining that with a fixed income and rising utility costs, sometimes she just can’t afford it.
She is enrolled in the Federal Extra Help program, a program that lowers out-of-pocket costs for people with low income, but she still needs more help. Her income is about $1,000 a month, so after rent, there isn’t much left. Her PAN grants have helped her with her medication co-pays, as well as transportation to get to her doctor and pharmacy. Because her pharmacy is in her supermarket, she makes sure to maximize her grant dollars and pick up her prescriptions and groceries during the same trip.
“I get the chance to kill two birds with one stone, so that really helps. When you’re on a fixed income, every little bit makes a difference,” she said. “[These grants] have lifted a burden off me.”
She also stretches her budget by living with her son. He’s expecting his first child later this year and Lara explained that the little girl’s name, Lauryn, will honor her grandma.
“I know it’s difficult because he might want to go on his own, but he knows that if he left, what and who would I become? I would have to try to find a roommate,” she said. “Thank God that my son lives with me and I’m able to split the bills, but he still has to pay the bulk of that.”
She hopes to see Congress reform Medicare, setting a limit for what beneficiaries pay out of pocket each year and making prescriptions more affordable.
“They make the decisions, but they are not in the situation,” she said of policymakers.
Go to the community and actually see and experience what goes on. Put my shoes on and see how they feel.”
“Do they know what it’s like to choose between your meal and your medicine?”
In the meantime, she is focused on staying positive, maintaining her health, and getting ready to be a grandma. Occasionally, she even goes bowling, though she said she has to roll the ball now, instead of throwing it. She laughed as she explained that her mind wants to do more than her body will allow.
And that’s okay, as long as she has her family.
“We don’t have to have a whole bunch. We can have chips and dips and sit around and talk,” she said. “Being with family is the most important thing to me.”
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