Life and Money With Helaine by Helaine Olen

Health and Financial Setbacks Combine for Bleak Future

Dear Helaine: I am a 64-year-old woman with two problems that will contribute to my being homeless sometime in the future. In 2003, I began dental implant procedures to replace several teeth. I suffered through rejection and a jaw infection, and I couldn't place implants where I had the infection. I have a severe gagging reflex and couldn't tolerate the final bridge, so I am missing teeth, something that contributes to my not being able to find a job. Second, I need to use a cane and walker because of a foot deformity.

My co-op has no mortgage, but I need to pay maintenance and utility bills. I also need to buy food. I haven't worked in years, and my savings will at some point be depleted, leaving me nothing but Social Security. The monthly amount will not cover my needs.

At some point, I will lose my home or have no money for food. This makes me hopeless for the future. I am willing to work. I can work. I just have to find a job where I am sitting down and not facing the public. Any suggestions would be welcome. -- Hopeless and Toothless

Dear Hopeless and Toothless: I feel your despair and pain. It's extremely difficult to recover from financial and health setbacks -- and you've had several -- when you are on the verge of retirement age. I don't have any magic or simple answer for you, alas.

I would urge you to reach out to your local senior centers and religious organizations, and find out what subsidized services you are possibly eligible to receive so you can preserve your funds. You might discover there is help available paying utility bills or accessing food banks. Senior centers also often serve free or low-cost meals. They might even deliver meals to your home via a program like Meals on Wheels, if a local agency deems you eligible for the service.

If your income is no more than 125% of the federal poverty level, you could potentially get a short-term position via the Senior Community Service Employment Program. There are larger changes you should consider, as well. You could investigate relocating to a less-expensive area of the country, or even consider retiring to a low-cost community abroad, an increasingly popular option among seniors with limited financial resources.

And finally, I would urge you to consider using some small portion of your savings to get a consult with a dentist who works with people with sensitive gag reflexes -- yes, they are out there. It is quite possible the bridge you were fitted with was not well made and contributed to your problems.

(To ask Helaine a question, email her at askhelaine@gmail.com.)

(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Sue Roush at sroush@amuniversal.com)