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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Old fashioned marriage...

I’m old school. I freely and openly admit that I was raised in an era when things are now looked upon as “out of date.” I’m not alone. I’m a baby-boomer and, last I heard, we make up the majority of the senior citizen pool. I’m just freakin’ fine with that. I’m proud to be from the time warp where family was everything and a person’s handshake was as good a signature. I drank from the water hose and rode my bike without a helmet. Those were the days my friend.

Riley is nine years older than me. But, I know his childhood was, generally, much the same as mine when it came to how things were back in the day. We were raised with a certain mind-set, a certain set of beliefs and the knowledge that if we worked hard and paid our dues – in the long run – we would reap the reward of the golden years. We didn’t know that the “Golden Years” are not for sissy’s.
Both, Riley and I, were sixteen years old when we got our first bonafide job. We started paying income taxes and into our Social Security plan and we were proud to do it. We believed this was in our best interest as well as our country’s. Riley is now 73 and I’m 64. We’ve been paying into Social Security for the better part of 50 years. If we added up all the money we have paid into the program, I would imagine it would be a sizable amount even though we were always a middle-income couple.
When I found out that Medicare – part of our Social Security program – wasn’t going to pay for Riley’s nursing home, I was a bit taken aback. How could we be paying into something for so long not help us at a time when it was most needed?
The truth is… I’m not alone in the belief that Medicare will take care of us. When I met with the social worked at the Veteran’s Administration, she explained that many people are under the false impression that Medicare will pick up the slack. Yes. Medicare will pick up certain expenses, but the reality is they will not pay for any type of custodial care. She explained further that when reality hits, it creates a form of culture shock. People in my age bracket have worked most of their lives and enjoyed the fruits of their labor – such as health insurance. When they retire, the company provided health insurance goes away or becomes too expensive to continue. They are left with Medicare which covers many things and is a Godsend when illness takes over. But, it leaves a lot uncovered and the quality of care often goes down considerably.
Riley and I have always been well-insured between his military medical and my private health insurance; we had our choice of the best doctors and hospitals. You would think when Medicare got added to the mix, we would be even better off. When I was forced into retirement, I could not pay for the private health insurance. Somehow I had the mindset that we would be OK because we had both military and Medicare. But it was simply just a false sense of security. When it was explained to me, I thought – OK that was a kick in the reality pants. What’s next?
I never in my life thought I would be applying for Medicaid. In the past we had enough money to take care of ourselves and I would never imagine that I’d be faced with asking my government for money to help support me. This feels like Welfare and I’m just not a Welfare person. BUT WAIT!!! As the social worker so aptly put it – have I not been paying taxes for about 50 years? Have I not paid into the system? The answer was YES – I (we) had been paying and paying into the system for the majority of our lives. It’s not “Welfare”. It’s a benefit from living in this country and paying my dues. I’m not asking the taxpayers to foot my bill – I am asking for the use of the money I have contributed. I know there was no “Medicaid” account deduction on my paycheck, but isn’t it implied? I had before never seen it from that point of view.
I really don’t want Medicaid to pay for Riley’s nursing home expenses. I’d rather get the assistance in the form of an allowance for a personal care attendant for Riley. That seems reasonable to me. It’s the only way I can save my sanity and still tend to Riley’s care.
As far as Medicaid taking all of Riley’s income to pay for a nursing home, that doesn’t seem unreasonable to a certain degree. If I could maintain a portion of his income and give the rest to the nursing home, I might be able to get my mind around it. But, that leads to a whole other issue that also seems to be “old school.”
Back in my day when a couple married – they truly married. Their lives became one just as their assets and debts were combined. Both paychecks went into one bank account and the bills were paid without regard as to which of the couple initiated the expense. The house payment was not divided into his and hers. The car payments were not split by the one who drove the car the most often. Everything was shared – money, cars, house, children, mothers, fathers… everything became the property of the couple who were now ONE entity.
I sometimes hear my niece say that her husband couldn’t pay his share of the house payment or his car payment this month and I wonder if they are married or just roommates. I know it is not this way with all young couples, but it seems to be getting to be the norm rather than the exception. That’s not how I have viewed my marriage with the exception of the time when we were separated. Then Riley was on his own and I supported myself.
When I took Riley back in there were expenses that needed to be met and his lack of responsibility for his credit cards needed to be reckoned with. Once again, we combined the money and I managed to dig him out of the hole he had created while still maintaining the obligations I had created before he came back. Besides that there were issues of the expense of taking care of him – personal aides, diapers, etc., etc. Using my employment income and his income, I managed to provide him with everything he needed – everything WE needed. And now, since I am retired, I have replaced the employment income with a social security check – a far less amount.
We have encumbered “joint” responsibilities – such as the lease on a house that accommodates our needs. I’m still paying on many of his prior obligations – such as a tax debt that I will be held responsible for as his legal spouse even after his death. Since his heart attack, any money we had put aside was used to meet transportation and other expenses while being at his side in the hospital which was more than two hours from home. He has had special needs with being in the nursing home as well. Why should I not use his (our) income to help pay for these encumbrances? Should I just ignore the bills and say “Oh well…”?
A divorce will not solve my financial problems. Any encumbrances made while legally married will still be my responsibility even after divorce. Also, if I divorce now, I will lose the only health insurance I have – my TriCare through the military. We need to stay married for another year for me to be “grandfathered” into TriCare. And I won’t be eligible for Medicare for another year. I will also lose the ability to receive the Veteran’s Admin allowance called “Dependent’s Indemnity Compensation.”  Divorce is not a good option for me.
My daughter reassures me that she will not take her father into her home. She says she is past it. But, I don’t trust that she will be able to stand by that decision as she watches him slip further downhill. I don’t trust that she has that resolve. My grandson, has shown incredible grief as he sat by Riley’s bed waiting for him to die. I didn’t expect that. I still must be the barrier between Riley, Alea and Ryan.
One of my readers believes I’m just after Riley’s “pension” money. Well… I guess she’s right. I DO want to be able to keep using the money in his retirement check. We are a legally married couple who have made financial commitments that are binding to us as a unit of one. I’m not willing (nor able) to go back to work full-time in order to meet obligations that are the responsibility of both of us. It might kill me to have Riley come back home and have to manage his care, but it will definitely kill me if I try to go back to being an employee in the working world. I’ll leave that job for someone who needs it more than I – like parents trying to raise their youngsters.
When I thought Riley wasn’t coming home, I started to prepare for a big loss of income. Moving with the grandkids and settling into a much smaller place was part of the plan. But, I was also looking forward to a future that included new adventures – like taking the OARS Group to the next level of public meetings. It will still happen – all of it will happen – it’s just that my timeline will be extended.
 Am I still in prison? Yes. But, it’s up to me to make those bars more elastic that they have been. I may not be able to escape permanently for a while – but I’ll still venture out when I can.


Anonymous said...

Remember credit cards are unsecured debt. They cannopt put leins on bank accounts unless card from same bank. My Aunt was able to stay in a regular hospital for a full year by the cooperation of the doctors with her children --Wxplore all options..He should be sent to a hospital as they can tell thru tests & scans that he is terminal and home relese woild be Criminal and make them liable for a lawsuit--Have you spoken to a good lawyer about this plight?

Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- Thanks for the info. I have not spoken to a lawyer for fear of the cost. I have been advised to consult the "Council on Aging" by the Social Worker. Everything has happened so fast that I feel I just in "react" mode. I agree he needs testing to find out where he really stands. That's what I'm pushing for but I'll just have to wait and see. BTW -- I got all his credit cards paid off as of early this year. -- Linda

Bev said...

Linda, I understand where you are coming from I am 58 and starting to look at all my options for my 'Golden Years' so I will be able to survive them in some decent manner.

Your social worker gave you good advice. Keep asking questions . I understand your need to wait until you are eligible for TriCare and Medicare but when the dust has settled it might be time to get a divorce.

And I undertand the reason for staying married as well but you have to look at reality. People need money to live and you have to pull all the strings you can so you can do just that. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks. You need to be able to provide for yourself, put food on the table and all of that.

Who is going to look after you but you? I truly hope that someone who has the answers sees your post and helps you sort things out. You have done more than most people would do both in helping Riley and paying off his debts.

Hang in there, you never know what the next day will bring : D

msterfun said...

While all of that is being taken care of don't forget to enroll him in the vodka of the month club. I signed my dad up last week.

Kibble said...

Medicaid will let you keep somewhere between $1,800 and $2,800per month of your total incomes, not out of the goodness if their hearts but so you don't become impoverished and need services yourself. Doesn't the question become whether you want to find a way to live on that or do you want to volunteer for a ticket to board the crazy train again?

But then again, if he comes home it WILL all start again. Maybe this time you won't call 911, or when you get to the hospital you will tell them to make him comfortable but do no more.

Kathy said...

This doesn't make any sense to me. Looks are deceiving. Very deceiving. It would seem to me that doing something major like taking someone out of hospice would require a medical eval first. This would be a very important reason to take him to a hospital. I would demand a medical eval for such an important decision.

Anonymous said...

Since this man who is your husband has been removed from your home and "care" he has been detoxed and no one has been giving him alcohol. The only way this man can get alcohol is if you the "caregiver" buy it and make it available to him. Eventually someone will figure out that you are the one giving him alcohol. He cannot walk, drive, and is mentally deranged, and not capable of getting alcohol and you have legal access to his money and all decisions concerning his well being. You are responsible for his health and care as his wife and have been giving him alcohol for the past few years. You have been blocked from giving him alcohol when he was removed from your home. Hopefully someone will step in and continue to block you from giving him alcohol or he will die. Figure it out. You are the one who has been supplying him with the booze that will kill him. Surreal. I think that is called murder. Assisted suicide. Get a grip woman. You might end up in jail.

Linda -- Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- I wonder how fast it would kill Riley if he drank hand sanitizer, perfume, mouthwash, extracts, cooking wine, cough syrup, glass cleaner... or any other substance containing alcohol that was not meant for human consumption? I haven't decided yet if I will buy or serve him alcohol. But, in my crazy old mind, it seems it would be better for him to have controlled amounts of alcohol, such as vodka, rather than lethal amounts of rubbing alcohol. They even give controlled amounts in the hospital these days.

I may have supplied him alcohol, but what is the better alternative? Before you judge me -- come to my house and take care of him for just one week. You might see things differently.

Do you really think he would be alive today if I had not taken care of him as I have. I was not the one who turned him into an alcoholic. That was his own doing.

I'm operating on very little sleep and very high stress and I have little to NO patience with people who are so quick to pass judgment. Before you start telling me what a failure I am -- maybe you could propose a more acceptable positive solution. A solution where Riley doesn't kill HIMSELF by drinking unsafe substances.

Anonymous said...

Ah... the drama of it all. Funny how it is always vodka at the end. Seems to be a pattern. And the martyr wife. The weeping grandchild at his dying bedside was a nice touch. Same old, same old. Blah,blah,blah. The vodka of the month club would at least help with the money problems!

Louise J said...

Anonymous, whatever you may think of the situation, please remain civil. There is no need to write in this way.

Eclectic Bohemian said...

If I've said it once I've said it a million times. Never take stock into anything someone says under an anonymous post. I skip right over 'em.

NONE of us know what we would do UNTIL we are put in a situation. Do not judge!

Anonymous said...

Obviously Anonymous has no CLUE!!! No one knows until they have walked a mile in our moccasins!!!

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this post for quite a while and it has helped me so much as my husband is an end stage alcoholic and it is the hardest thing I have ever had to live through or witness I had to reply after reading that heartless post blaming a woman who has given her all to try and take care of her husband who is terminal I'm so tired of people blaming other people when someone is ill at this point if I don't buy my husband alcohol he will die yes Riley is not drinking in the hospital but you can bet he is on a lot of medication we all die some of us smoke some are overweight some don't exercise enough some drink too much and some eat healthy exercise and still get sick if I'm over weight it's not my husbands fault if he makes me dinner and I eat too much the only one who controls what goes in my body is ME a murderer goes into a movie theater and shoots innocent people watching a movie many people would not do as much for this man as Linda has it is a very difficult disease to be around

Furtheron said...

These are tough times - again for you...

The thing about social security not picking up the costs is something that needs much more exposure/debate. We have similar issues here in the UK - they can force you to sell your house (if you own one) to pay for it.

The problem we have in the UK is they names it National Insurance - which was a mistake as it is not an Insurance plan at all - it is an additional tax, they should just have put up income tax. See the govt spend all the money they get in in taxes (and more!!) every year. So it isn't like they take your money and put it in a fund for you for when you need it - when you need care (i.e. when you are older) the people paying for it are the people working now who are paying the taxes... in an economy with an aging demographic, falling wages and taxable income to the treasury there is a point where the sums don't add up

kris frost hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
frostie said...

Good luck, Linda. I have been following your post for some time and you have helped me a great deal. For the record, I have not purchased alcohol for a long time for my addicted soon-to-be-ex-husband, but somehow he obtained it nearly every day for the past several years. Alcoholism is a destructive disease that will dissolve all it touches. Losing everything, and I mean every bit of a life's work, has not been dire enough to turn my alcoholic around. I hope Anonymous enjoys his/her tax dollars being spent on the self-inflicted homelessness and lack of health insurance currently plaguing my ex. I never really understood how humans could immagine zombies and vampires until the former man of my dreams became the nightmare found in the bottom of an empty bottle

Syd said...

Once all funds are exhausted down to about $2000, then Medicaid is really the only option. And in a nursing home, it doesn't take long to exhaust funds. I will write to Riley again soon.

Jackie said...

I believe the few comments concerning how Medicaid calculates how much money they must have for a spouse to stay in a nursing home is correct. The spouse that is remaining at their own home will be able to keep a monthly amount for their living expenses. Medicaid does not want the healthier spouse to become homeless, etc. Linda, you really do need to co tact an Attorney on this issue. You will learn so much about how everything works. One visit might be all you will need.

As for Jo in a precious post where she had the advise: did you sign as responsible party? NEVER do that.(i thought you were no longer married) if you did, yes, they can bill you. if not,,they would ship him elsewhere. their after you because you are alive and can pay. its a common ploy. they will try to guilt you into it.

I was more or less recently tricked in signing TONS of papers when my mother was admitted into a rehab facility. Among all of the paperwork, I would say about 95% of the papers I was asked to sign said I was the "representative" for my mother. I didn't realize until retreading all those papers later at home that some of the papers said I was the "responsible" party of my mother. Those two words look similar. The majority signed at the beginning were "representative" so I never noticed the change in the wording until later. By then it was too late. She has been discharged this week and stayed only as long as Medicare allowed. But for future admissions, I'm going to NOT sign any papers for her again. If they insist, I'll have to watch the wording or tell them I'll need to contact my Attorney first. I think most places will try and trick you. It worked on me!! Never again. Scary to know some of these places will do whatever it takes.

Bev said...

Jackie - that is so true. Several years ago my son hit a utility pole and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. When we found out what had happened we went to see him - little did he care though he was still drunk and told us to F---off. An advocate of the hospital came to see us in the waiting room and told us not to sign anything. That if we did we would be liable for his bill. She was our angel. That was almost 15 years ago, I doubt that would happen today. It's best not to sign anything until your absolutely certain what it is you are signing. Once you sign it is too late.

Lori said...

I generally don't bother responding to trolls but since no one addressed it I just wanted to say there is about as much chance that Linda could be charge with murder for providing her alcoholic, verbally abusive husband with his booze. Just like a wife buying her husband with lung disease cigarettes, or serving fried chicken to a hubby with heart disease. These are all legal substances. Riley made his choice to drink, Linda provided him the safest route to do it, rather than letting him kill someone driving drunk to the liquor store.

Lori said...

Oops, rephrase that to, "there is about a snowballs chance in hell that Linda could be charged with murder..."

Anonymous said...


Riley's sober now after being in a hospital setting, so there isn't a reason medically to give him alcohol. If you're taking the advice of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and Hospice, ask them if you can start buying him alcohol again and see what they say.

I feel like is simple economics, else you'd left him long ago. I think you're been living with a very dis functional man that has hijacked your life for years. Why go back. Turn his income over and let someone else watch him die.

denise said...

I seriously want to reply to the nasty little troll who has nothing to bring to the table but their own misery.

I didn't see any mention of your circumstances. What you do, whether you are the alcoholic or carer or....... what happened in your life to make you so twisted. Or whether you troll sites capitalising on peoples misery because someone bought you a keyboard for Christmas.

Or you would know. Trust me you would know.

There is no guilt trip you can lay that Linda hasn't laid on herself. There is no criticism an armchair troll can levy, that a carer of an alcoholic hasn't levied on themselves.

How dare you entertain yourself in this way.

Go get a job. Find something to fill your days.