Little Care for a Career Caregiver
For over a decade, Dottie has endured searing pain down her neck, back, and both wrists – all due to injuries she sustained at work – yet her workers compensation insurance recently decided not to pay for the non-addictive pain-relieving cream she’s relied on for years. Without a change in her condition or any explanation, the insurer simply took away her pain relief.
“Every time I start having any kind of quality of life, they do this to me. I’m just holding my breath,” she said, “in fear that they’ll take something else away.”
Dottie is widowed, and was forced into retirement in 2006 from what she called her “dream job” as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), because of multiple work injuries. Over her decades-long career, Dottie incurred two debilitating injuries: to her shoulder, while pushing a difficult patient up a ramp in his wheelchair; and later, to her back, while transferring a quadriplegic from his bed to a geriatric chair.
Even with Medicare and AARP defraying some of the costs of her pain management, “Because I have to pay for my own medication, more and more, I’m slowly going down the hole, robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Certified nursing assistant work is physically demanding, and it’s well known that a high percentage of CNAs incur injuries over time. The hospital that employed Dottie paid steep workers compensation insurance premiums to cover her care. Yet now that she desperately needs care, she has to fight tooth and nail for it.
When her doctor diagnosed her with carpal tunnel, for example, brought on by repetitive work strain from pushing patients in wheelchairs up and down ramps and lifting them, her insurer denied the request for wrist braces. Dottie appealed the decision and won. But when her condition worsened and her doctor advised her to have surgery, the insurance company turned their backs and claimed her wrists weren’t hurt from work at all. To add further insult, they wrote that they wouldn’t be responsible for any consequences if her condition worsened. In sum: when the cost of treatment was low, the insurance company accepted responsibility for her care. When the same injury became more expensive, they washed their hands of it.
They use the same tack to evade paying for proper care for her other work injuries. When a proven method of pain relief is prescribed – most recently, an epidural spinal injection in her back – it’s denied; although it would bring greater relief, the pills she takes are cheaper.
Dottie would like to not wake up in severe pain. She’d like to be able to turn her neck “like a normal person.” But the medical care that would make these things possible for her is constantly, capriciously, coldly, denied.
Dottie took all the necessary precautions to do her job well, and to do it safely. She loved caring for the sick at the hospital, and, as the lead CNA in charge of training, she’s confident that she went about the physical labor of her job correctly. Nursing assistants suffer work injuries because of the demands of the job; that’s a simple fact.
But they should not have to suffer the way Dottie does. Yet another workers’ compensation insurer has reneged on the pact they made. When will this wrongdoing be made right?
If you have had a similar experience, please reach out and tell us your story.