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LEXINGTON, N.C. — 62 million Americans will get a 1.7% cost-of-living raise in their social security benefits starting in 2013.

And while most people would have no complaints about a few more dollars every month, the raise is making things very tough for Gene Byrd and his family.

Gene Byrd is a former firefighter and factory worker who lives near Lexington with his son and daughter-in-law, Rosemary.

Once an active great-grandfather to four children, Rosemary said Gene’s health has rapidly declined over the last month because of dementia.

“A man that’s worked all of his life, two to three jobs at a time has never asked for help,” said Rosemary of Gene. “Now he severely needs help and can’t get it.”

Rosemary said Gene needs medicaid to help cover the cost of assisted living or in-home care.

But because of the 1.7%  social security raise, Rosemary said Gene no longer qualifies for medicaid. He’s overqualified by $15 too much in income.

“This raise has put him $15 dollars over. $15 dollars over. And he can not get help.”

Rosemary says she and her husband work full time and try their best to look after Gene, but his dementia is getting worse. It exhausts them physically and emotionally.

They recently found Gene attempting to cook food at three o’clock in the morning by himself.

Last week, he wandered outside in the middle of the night, planning to go to a neighbor’s house because he thought it was his own parent’s home. Gene’s parents died 20 years ago.

“We’re right on Highway 29/70 so it’s very dangerous for him to get out and ramble down the road. He’d be right there in the middle of the highway.”

“Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a very mean disease,” she said, holding back tears.

Gene is currently in the hospital being treated after he wandered from home last week. He’s expected to come home Friday or Saturday.

“They’re expecting us to bring him home which means in-home care which means an extra three thousand dollars a month. We don’t have that kind of money,” admits Rosemary.

Rosemary has already taken away Gene’s keys after he had several close-calls with traffic accidents.

Her social worker says there’s not much they can do in terms of over-qualifying for Medicaid.

Unfortunately, she adds, they just can’t keep an eye on Gene every minute of every day.