My sister and I shared a bedroom as kids, but it takes me a minute to recognize the thin, disheveled brown-haired woman I see through the window. Then I see her alert, puzzled expression, and I realize she no longer recognizes me. She’s less than 10 feet away and I can’t reach out for decades and find the little sister I knew she was, the beautiful, hilarious and talented person she once was. The nurse next to him hurriedly leaves the ward; He tells me that my crying “isn’t helping”, that I am confusing and worrying my sister. I move away from the window so that he can’t see me any more.

This is the reality of caring for a mentally ill family member in America. I am the last barrier between my sister and homelessness. And I need some help. If my sister had cancer, or Parkinson’s, or diabetes, she could get treatment. But because she is terminally ill, she is trapped in a reality distortion field from which she cannot escape without medication which she flatly refuses.

From her messages to me, I know she wants her life back, her collaboration back, a chance to work as an artist again. And I know from her previous hospitalizations that her mental health improves with medication, and longer-acting antipsychotics are now available in injectable form, which removes the need for daily compliance.

My sister has generous federal disability benefits, Medicare and supplemental insurance, and a family who cares for her. As her guardian, I pay her expenses from her monthly stipend and transfer money daily to the debit card as her sole ID. But how can I keep my sister safe and at home if I don’t need her care?

How do I go beyond what the Center’s law is designed to fulfill and how it is interpreted by those allowed to fulfill it? Will the mayor’s new directive increase his chances of receiving court-mandated outpatient treatment? It is no longer a mystery to me why thousands of homeless mentally ill people live on the streets of New York and Los Angeles and many other cities in America. They have nowhere else to go.

I leave the hospital in despair. I spend the rest of my time in New York cleaning the apartment in the private house where my sister lived. I wear his clothes, KF94 mask and latex gloves to sort the trash. I arrange care for the stray cat she tried to keep as a pet and attempted to feed from a can of tuna, but instead fed the living room rats. I contact an exterminator, a remedial company, a plumber and a painter to clean, disinfect and repair the apartment.

And I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the owner of the house who tolerated my sister and her illness with transcendental compassion. He has not only made my sister’s life bearable, but my own as well. As grateful as I am to them, it is not a substitute for adequate state supported care. Housing the mentally ill is not going to be settled by the kindness of strangers, not when there are millions of people like my sister.

#opinion #barrier #sister #York #City

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