Neal Sandifer, 34, lives in a nursing home in Columbia, unable to care for himself. He used to be athletic, with a love for hunting, but in 2008 Sandifer fell from a deer stand. The accident left him permanently brain damaged.
Nursing homes are not equipped to treat patients with severe brain injuries. They aren’t prepared to handle the anger and outbursts often associated with Sandifer’s injuries, but many severely brain-injured patients need constant assistance and a controlled environment.
The nursing home is the closest Neal Sandifer and his family can manage to a long-term care facility, but soon he will be forced to leave. Sandifer doesn’t know where he will be going after however, because there is no long-term, in-patient care facility in Mississippi for those with severe brain injuries.
The nursing home Sandifer’s family found for him has given notification that Neal will be removed by the end of the month, and at this point, the only plan his family has is to bring their son home, though they know they can’t offer the care he really needs.
Sara Sandifer, Neal’s mother, is the victim of a brain hemorrhage from years ago, which has confined her to a wheelchair, and Robert “Pat” Sandifer, Neal’s father, is retired. A place in Louisiana was willing to accept Neal, but Robert can’t afford the cost of $600 a day.
“I’m retired; we had some money saved, but I’m going broke fast trying to care for my son,” Robert told Jimmie E. Gates from the Clarion Ledger.
Sandifer’s situation is indicitive of the issues facing severly brain injured patients across the country.
Lee Jenkins, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi, advocates for in-patient, long-term care facilities for people with traumatic brain injuries, and fully realizes the conflicts that arise. “Some patients with brain injuries can’t go home because no one can take care of them.”
The issue with opening facilities like Jenkins pushes for is the astronomical costs of running the operations. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, extensive rehab can cost anywhere between $600 and $8,000 a day.
There are a few in-patient, long-term care facilities that are capable of caring for victims of severe brain injuries, but most can’t afford them. What is worse, the few that can afford to pay for the facilities often have to be moved across states, away from their families.
That is a difficult choice for parents like Robert Sandifer to have to make. Do you send your child states away to receive care that will almost inevitably drive you bankrupt, or do you keep them close, where you can still see your badly injured child but they won’t be able to receive proper care?