Jane Fling, the 90-year-old widow of one of Columbia’s most visible caretakers of the poor and down and out, is now facing hard times and possible eviction from a nursing home because of mounting bills.
The Fling home, where the late John Fling spent so many years operating his John Fling Ministries, is on the market for $142,000, their son Richard Fling said.
The family is also holding an estate sale today in hopes of raising at least $1,000 toward a nursing home bill that has risen to more than $24,000, her granddaughter, Sarah Fling, said.
Jane Fling suffered two strokes in early October and was hospitalized at Palmetto Health Baptist. It was determined she could not care for herself, so the family placed her in UniHealth Post-Acute Care in Blythewood, and applied for Medicaid, the federal program that provides health care to low income individuals, Richard Fling said.
“She lived by herself. She had no income except for her Social Security check,” he said.
Richard Fling said the nursing home required no payments until Medicaid determined his mother was ineligible. “And then they very politely informed us we owed about $9,000,” he said.
That bill has since risen to more than $30,000 although the family has been able to pay about $5,600 so far. As of the end of February, the family owed $24,266.80.
“What they are telling us now is that they are going to kick her out because of nonpayment,” Richard Fling, 65, a retired state employee, said Friday. “The cost is $7,500 a month, and I don’t make that much.”
Sarah Fling said the family doesn’t mind paying, “but they have to give us time.”
Efforts to reach UniHealth officials were unsuccessful Friday. The Blythewood facility is owned by UHS-Pruitt Corp.
Under federal law, a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home, cannot discharge a patient without first notifying the patient and the patient’s family or other responsible party, who may request a hearing. The nursing facility also must secure a bed in an alternative, safe facility before a discharge takes place, said Sarah Clingman, a Columbia elder law attorney. Clingman said a patient is also allowed to remain at the facility while appealing a Medicaid denial. The family is not obligated to take on the patient’s debts.
Jane Fling’s pastor, the Rev. Bill Robertson at Earlewood Baptist Church, said it is a sad plight for the lively, diminutive woman who made personal sacrifices in her own life so her husband, known as the “Everyday Santa,” could aid those less fortunate.
She was “the one who stood by and gave him to all these ministries,” said Robertson, who recalled Jane Fling as “quite a character” and adept at drawing facial sketches.
John Fling, the son of Georgia sharecroppers, was known for taking thousands of children on Christmas spending sprees as well as supplying food and clothing to the poor in a one-man ministry outreach that spanned more than four decades. Blind in one eye from a childhood hunting accident, he also provided assistance to blind individuals.
“Daddy gave everything he had to help somebody,” said son John Fling. “I’ve seen him open his wallet and empty it out.”
The family is appealing to Medicaid, which is asking for documentation on $50,000 John Fling left to his wife at the time of his 2007 death. A meeting is set for next week, Richard Fling said.
Richard Fling, who is his mother’s power of attorney, said she used the money as income, spending it over the four years on basics like food, clothing, medicine and home insurance, among other items. His brother, John Fling, also confirmed that their mother used the money for living expenses.
Richard Fling has supplied the nursing home with her bank account statements from the previous five years to clear up the matter and gain Medicaid eligibility.
Richard Fling said his mother managed her own affairs while she was in good health, never allowing him to even accompany her to the bank because she considered her personal business to be private. He did not fully assume power of attorney duties until October, although he has served legally as such since his father’s death.
Bruce Siron, the real estate agent who is marketing the 1910-era Fling home at 2916 River Drive, said he hopes it sells soon so the funds could be directed to Jane Fling’s care. The home has high ceilings and archways plus heart of pine floors, but he said the simple furnishings inside reflected people who were not focused on themselves.
“You could tell they did not spend their lives accumulating valuable stuff,” Siron said. Richard Fling said “every penny” of the house sale would go toward her care.