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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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Plan for the worst

I read that a commenter took a “life expectancy” test to see how long she and her alcoholic can expect to live. I went to the website she used and did the test for both myself and Riley. I should die at age 80 and he should be dead within 3 years. I was impressed because in my gut, I think I really can live to age 80 or maybe even longer. Riley’s result didn’t surprise me at all, but, let’s not forget that he IS The Immortal Alcoholic AND he is in hospice, so all bets are off when it comes to his exit date.

I guess this test is a good one for a general ball-park for some planning. But, I find it to be a bit deceiving when it comes to determining the lifespan of an alcoholic.
There is so much more to that calculation than a few questions can determine. Like, how much does he drink? Does he drive drunk? How much actual food nourishment does he get? What are his lab result numbers?

If the alcoholic is at end-stage there are a couple of tests that can be done to determine an approximation of how much longer the alcoholic will be around. One is the Child-Pugh Test and another is the MELD Score. Each of these tests uses information from Liver Function Test (LFT) lab results that contain the levels of Serum Bilirubin, Serum Albumin, and Serum Creatinine and the Prothrombin Time (INR).

More information about the calculation of tests can be found in The Workbook for Caretakers of End-Stage Alcoholics. You can download an interactive book or order the “already put together” paper in a binder version – both ordered through this blog or by clicking the links to the store on Linda's Front Porch.

While both of these tests are good measurements of an alcoholic’s life expectancy, the person doing the calculating must remember that the numbers are only good if nothing changes in the alcoholic’s drinking. The caveat after determining the result is, for example, “there is an 81% chance of the alcoholic surviving one year if the alcoholic continues to drink at the same rate as he did at the time of the test.” So if the alcoholic takes the test and has an 81% chance of living for another year, and then he quits drinking for a few months (or however long), the percentage is no longer a good representation.

There’s a lot more to determining how long an alcoholic will stick around than just the liver function. Other parts of the body are also affected by alcohol abuse, such as, heart failure, brain damage, kidney failure. It’s easy to be misled that each time an alcoholic quits drinking means his lifespan will increase. That’s not always the case. Each time the body goes through a detox, it is weakened in some degree in various ways.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that every alcoholic – just like every regular person – is different. Some alcoholics die within a short period of time without ever going through a detox while others seem to be immortal. I believe there are so many factors that we just can’t determine all of what contributes to the death of the alcoholic or how long the body will accept the abuse.

My suggestion to those of you who are trying to plan for your financial future – which I encourage everyone to do – is to plan for the worst possible scenario. Plan as though the alcoholic will be with you for the rest of your life. If he becomes as ill as Riley, there will be expenses you’ve probably never thought about.

If you can afford it, and your alcoholic isn’t at end-stage, purchase a long-term care insurance policy. They are very expensive, but if the time comes that you need it, you will find it is money well spent. Also, take out a term-life insurance policy – the kind that doesn’t require a physical or answering any medical questions. Investigate whether or not anything might be available to the alcoholic from other sources, such as, Veteran’s Administration or Medicaid.

Do the math. Create your spreadsheets. Work it out using every scenario possible. Then take the one that looks like you will be left with the least funds for life. Work on that scenario. Plan ways to cut expenses or add to the funds. Know what’s ahead because knowledge is the key to survival.


SufferinginMD said...

I read her post too and also took the test. I sure hope to high you know what that HE does not live to be 65. (Tears started running when it said that.) Of course it didn't note that HE drinks WAYYY more than '3-5 more than 3 days a week' (try 15+ beers and a magnum of red wine every.single.day.) and HE's had a massive hemmoragic stroke almost 2 years ago, several mini strokes and several seizures. If HE goes more than 3 hours without alcohol HE starts vomiting green or yellow bile like fluid and then eventaully has a seaizure. (HE did this while we were coming home from our son's football game Saturday and it's my fault because I forgot his flask.) And oh let's not forget to note how HE literally has explosive, uncotrollable bowels and he's deficating all over my home and himself reguarly. HE looks like walking death. HE will eat only dinner and not much of it at that. HE will not let me take him to the doctor and part of me is OK with that.... but just how much longer can it go on? I read about you and Riley and while I have found comfort in knowing I'm not alone, I cry in pain and sadness and absolute terror that HE could live as long as Riley has.

Julie Skinner said...

Hi my brother has been in and out hospital several times now and every time he gets out he goest strait to shop he has been drinking a bottle of vodka every day for around 1 year or more he is not eating anymore and his ayes a a little yellow he also has red spots all down his neck and arms does this sound as if he will die soon

fanofthescreen said...

My niece just found her 59 year old decades long alcoholic mother dead in bed. What a horrible experience that must have been. Her obituary lists none of her living siblings. She alienated herself from all of us and caused a lot of damage and pain to our family. The drunk gets to do what she wants - drink. And the sober family members live with the consequences. Now she's gone and her husband acts like we are all at fault. It is a family disease, no matter how you try to distance yourself after all offers of help are declined. Such a sad and lonely existence and a sad ending.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm 45, my husband is 48. He is without doubt an alcoholic, nearing end stage, if he is not already there. Our life together has been a crushing combination of highs and lows... more lows than highs, in the last decade or so. Love is hard to claim when you have lived with someone's abuse and bullying of yourself and your children for as many years as I have, but my family is poor, his is very wealthy, and he drove away any friends who might have been able to help me leave. So... I've stayed.

He is not always horrible. Rude, demanding, arrogantly confident that no one but he is ever right - but he is intelligent and can be kind, when it suits him. He works a simple 9-5 job that he's held for 10 years that does not challenge him and rarely misses a day of work, even when he is suffering withdrawl, which is more often than not, any more. He drinks a half gallon of vodka every 2-3 days during the week, more on weekends, and eats very little, if ever. He seems afraid to let anyone see him eat. I'm not convinced that he does.

I am never home. We have three children, two of which still live at home. Our eldest left the minute he graduated HS, and never looked back. I rarely see him now, and he is much happier for it. I work two jobs, trying to make ends meet. My husband's drinking and pack and a half a day smoking habit have paupered us, and when I was unemployed for four months (from my day job - the second job night/weekend was still on), the house almost went into foreclosure. They even sent people to take pictures of our home, while I was inside, filling out applications and sending out my CV. Fortunately, after four months, I got hired again, making about what I did before, just in time to save the house. He refused to admit anything was going on, refused to talk to the bank, and never even missed buying himself a pack of cigarettes. We might have become homeless, but he wasn't going to allow himself to be inconvenienced by any of it.

I don't hate my husband. I really wish I could. We had some wonderful times together - there was much love in the early years. And even still, in the barest of moments, the man I loved and married looks out of those eyes and we get the chance to talk. I find myself crying more often than not after those episodes, missing him so much. But then the bottle opens, and he's gone, maybe never to return again.

Am I a horrible person for wishing he would just die already? I refuse to yell at him for being horrible to us, refuse to badger him anymore about his drinking. It does no good, and he just takes it out on my children, if not directly on me when he is angry. Nothing I do makes any impression on him. He spent 11 years being intermittently admitted for bouts of acute pancreatitis, hospitalized each time for 5-15 days and each time the docs told him that if he didn't quit drinking, he would die... but he hasn't had an attack in about 3 years now, though his drinking has gotten nothing but worse... and he hasn't died. He thinks that means that they don't know what they are talking about, that none of it matters, he can just keep doing what he wants to do.

He refuses to write a will, refuses to make anything official. We have no life insurance - we did, until I was out of work and had to stop payments in order to keep food on the table, and now we can't get any (we still barely clear enough to pay the mortgage, keep the lights on and eat). I know things here are going to get much, much worse... but I don't know what to do.

Please. Please, somebody help. What am I supposed to do?

Anonymous said...

To the lady who wrote on December 22, 2015,
I was married to a man like your husband for 16 years ,but thanks to God, I found the courage to file for divorce a year ago. I never thought I would actually do it, but I did. The divorce process has been a nightmare because he kept doing illegal and immoral things against me, but I never felt regret about my decision. And now, although I have lost virtually all of my financial stability, I know I am free. I no longer have to look at or be with a violent drunk. I am the same age as you and I advise you to leave now before you grow older because as you already know he's not going to change.