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 I freely and openly admit that I was raised in an era when things are now looked upon as “out of date.”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.
at 9:10 AM