CARYVILLE (WATE) – Twenty-first birthdays are typically a time for celebration, but a grandmother who is the caregiver for her disabled granddaughter is heartsick. Tenncare will soon be cutting her granddaughter’s round-the-clock skilled nursing assistance.
On August 15, Pat Smith’s granddaughter, Tiffanie, turns 21. In every state there is a Medicaid program that gives benefits, like the 24 hours a day, seven day a week skilled nurse care that Tiffany Smith receives. The program is called the early and periodic screening diagnosis treatment program and it is designed to improve the health of low-income youngsters. However, at 21 assistance from Tenncare will change and nursing hours for Tiffany Smith will be cut.
Pat Smith is the permanent guardian for her granddaughter, Tiffanie Smith. The 20-year-old, who has a rare genetic disorder is on a ventilator, hasn’t walked or talked for 14 years and intellectually, her grandmother says, is like an infant.
Until she was four, she had been like other children. However by the age of seven things changed dramatically. “Her feet have never touched the floor since she was seven,” said Pat Smith. “She doesn’t nothing for herself, she can’t lift her little finger.”
“Tiffanie will be minus a nurse per Tenncare and we will be cut from 168 hours to 112 hours as far as skilled nursing,” said Pat Smith. During those off-hours, neither Pat Smith, nor her husband will be able to provide skilled care for their granddaughter because both of them are disabled. The grandmother and her husband only draw about $2,000 a month in disability.
Because Tiffanie is intellectually disabled, she’s eligible for benefits from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, but presently there are more than 6,000 people on a waiting list.
The grandmother said there have been discussions from Tiffany Smith’s Care Provier about possibly placing her in a nursing home that offers skilled care, but she is against the idea. “She’s my life,” said Pat Smith. She said she’s holding out hope that her granddaughter will be able to get the skilled care she needs.