Oxygen bottles sit on and among the soft chairs in Nancy Gove’s snug Damariscotta, Maine, apartment. The tube from one of them wraps around her head, a lifeline—much like, she says, her Medicare and her Social Security.
“My greatest fear now,” the 72-year-old grandmother admits, “is that something might happen. I pray that it stays there.”
Without Social Security, plus a small pension payment each month, she explains, she “would probably be out in the street” or have to move in with her son and his family, who live nearby. Even with the Social Security, she is eligible for a small amount of food stamps. “I don’t have much, but what I do have is very important to me,” she adds.
And without Medicare, she says, she would not be able to obtain all of the 14 medicines she takes each day to stay alive. The medicines address a growing muscle weakness and nerve problems that are a legacy from the polio she suffered in childhood. The virus kept her in an iron lung for six months when she was 10. The disease was in remission for a number of years, but she has had to cope with the ongoing weakness it left in its wake.
She said she has been especially unnerved lately because she has received notices from Medicare regarding possible cutbacks on coverage for drugs. “I’m very concerned,” she says. “It’s very scary.”
A former nurse, Gove retired officially in 2003, at the age of 62. For much of her career, she worked at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. With the weakening of her legs as an adult, she eventually took on the management of operations in the center’s Department of Neurosurgery.
Ten years ago, she said, she decided to respond to her son’s request that she move to Maine to be nearer to him, his wife and two sons.
She currently lives in an apartment whose rent is based on a portion of her modest income. “I don’t get all that much,” she says of her monthly Social Security payment, “but what I do have is very important to me.”