Aphasia deeply impacts a person’s financial well-being. Speech therapy and doctor appointments cost money. Moreover, aphasia impacts a person’s ability to work.
This topic comes up in Joe Biden’s book, Promise Me, Dad, which is the latest installment of our online book club. We are focusing solely on the parts of the book that cover aphasia and caregiving.
The financial impact of aphasia comes in a chapter called “Trust.” Biden is detailing the trust between the President and the Vice President as well as a senator and his or her constituents when he expands this idea. What is a worker’s obligation to his or her employer when a physical situation impacts their ability to do a job?
On page 76, Biden writes,
But in the middle of 2014, when Beau’s aphasia was getting worse, he worried that his illness might eventually affect his cognitive capability. And knowing Beau, Hunt and I became concerned that he might feel honor-bound to resign before his term as attorney general was over. The only income he had at the time was his salary. I told the president about this at one of our private lunches.
Beau needs to make a living, but his aphasia was impacting his ability to do his job. What obligation did Beau have to remove himself from the position, effectively ending his ability to support himself and his family?
Using His Platform
Beau luckily had a financial support system: A father who could get him money, a family friend in the President who could privately loan the Biden family money. Others are not as lucky, and the decision needs to made without those support nets in place.
Biden highlights this side effect of aphasia often, choosing it as the doorway to speaking about aphasia when Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, too.
Because he had aphasia, he was losing his ability to speak. And you didn’t want ever to be in a position where to him, everything was about duty and honor. I said, “And he may resign, I don’t know, I just have a feeling he may, and Hunt and I have talked about this.”
And I said, “He doesn’t have any other income, but we’re all right because Hunt’s there and I can sell the house.” … [He] said, “Don’t you sell that house. You love that house.”
I said, “It’s no big deal, Mr. President.” He said, “I’ll give you the money. I’ll give you the money. Promise me. Promise me, you won’t sell that house.”
He used the story to illustrate Obama’s care for other people, but Biden also knew that he was using his platform to the best of his ability. He could not stop aphasia from happening, but he could certainly use the moment to highlight aphasia’s financial impact; a problem that IS treatable and fixable unlike aphasia itself.
Image: Pepi Stojanovski via Unsplash