Bruce Deckard lives in a fifth wheel trailer in his daughter’s driveway on Garton Road in Ozark—not by choice but by necessity. He has chronic heart disease and needs to be within close proximity of medical assistance. He has a home in the country, but it’s too isolated for the man who has had a series of heart attacks in the last year.
“I can’t live alone,” Deckard said. “I understand the ordinances and the reasons for them, but I have to be close to someone. I don’t have the money to go into a care home.”
Deckard shares this conundrum with many aging baby boomers according to information from the National Institute on Aging. A report, now several years old, stated that “nearly two-thirds (of seniors) can’t afford even one year” in a nursing home. That number is most likely more today.
Deckard approached the Ozark Board of Aldermen Aug. 5, asking for a temporary variance from the city law that prohibits the parking of recreational vehicles in neighborhood driveways. He hopes that a planned medical procedure, which has yet to be approved for him by Medicare, will mitigate his condition enough that he can resume independent living.
When asked why he couldn’t live with his daughter inside the home, he said there’s just no room.
“She doesn’t have room in the house,” Deckard said. “I don’t know where I would go.”
Medicare will cover nursing home care for older and disabled patients after they've been hospitalized in the short term. Medicaid, or MO HealthNet, picks up long-term care for low-income seniors who qualify—but that can require liquidating assets. That means long-term care often falls to unpaid family members.
In the NIA report, Richard Suzman, director of the NIA's Division of Behavioral and Social Research, said statistics represent "an approaching crisis in caregiving."
"Baby boomers had far fewer children than their parents. Combined with higher divorce rates and disrupted family structures, this will result in fewer family members to provide long-term care in the future," Suzman said. "This will become more serious as people live longer with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's."
Deckard said his Social Security benefits are less than $800 monthly and that his daughter’s house has four bedrooms to accommodate two adults and their six children. It’s crowded.
But when a person filed a complaint with the city, a code enforcement officer sent a letter to the house, stating the ordinance and saying a citation would follow. Deckard had to move in anyway.
“There was a complaint called in,” Deckard said. “So I vacated the camper.”
He said he was sleeping in a chair.
Ward 2 Alderman Bruce Galloway said documentation supported Deckard’s case.
“This gentlemen came before us with a letter from his physician that documents the medical conditions he spoke of,” Galloway said. “The medical opinion is that he can’t be in isolation as described here.”
Galloway suggested that the aldermen could, “craft an ordinance that would allow for a variance based on medical conditions.”
Mayor Rick Gardner said the city would not issue a citation to Deckard’s family at this time.
“I would ask that the staff—code enforcement— would notify the people who made the complaints, so that they know we are not ignoring them, of the steps we are taking,” Gardner said. “The city attorney and Alderman Galloway will look into the mechanics of that. For now there will be no citation.”
Deckard said he was grateful for the consideration.
“I am just desperate, I don’t know what to do,” he said. “This was the only thing I knew to do. They seem like a bunch of awful nice fellows.”