John and Marcy Long just got into the car after their appointment with the Medicaid lawyer. The lawyer was advising them on what the middle class must do to afford nursing home costs. They can apply by doing this one large, legal maneuver; the couple needs to separate their assets to get Medicaid. It is a document called the Dissolution of Assets, where John and Mary will disperse their assets, all of the assets going to John, leaving Marcy with none thus creating the need for Medicaid.
John and Marcy each were thinking their thoughts. John Long was tired of the crushing cost of the nursing home which was $6,750 a month which was why they were needing Medicaid in the first place. He was ruminating on the maximum asset amount of $250,000 in resources that the state allowed the couple. How would this affect his retirement? Marcy Long on the other hand was wearily thinking: Yet another reason to hate this stupid Multiple Sclerosis! Now John will have to sell off his investments, or turn around and give the amounts to our children, Brian and Sophie. I know they both graduated from college and out in their jobs, they’ll be appreciative but what will John live on? The ridiculous $2,000 a month in our savings and checking is poverty living. I can do it in the nursing home but John will have a really hard time not having lived on so little in a very long time. How will he do it?
“It’s getting close to noon, do you want to stop and get some lunch?” Asked John.
“Sure. Want to eat Mexican or seafood?” Marcy asked.
“Mexican. Always the safest bet,” replied John. “You know we can hide a lot of our assets by giving them to our children. All of your IRA’s. And you have to get your parents to move their will bequeaths directly from you to Brian and Sophie.”
“I’ll call them tonight.” Sighed Marcy looking unseeing out the window at the modern buildings in downtown Denver.
John pulled into a Las Palmas Mexican restaurant, the closest to Marcy’s nursing home. He got out and went to the trunk to retrieve Marcy’s wheelchair. Then he came around to help her out of the car. She moved very stiffly, barely able to straighten her legs to stand when John pulled her out of the passenger side. “Time for a Baclofen? You’re quite stiff.” John said sympathetically.
“Yeah,” moaned Marcy as she agonizingly folded herself into the wheelchair. “I’m also ready for my noon pain meds for sure. Sadly, my day seems to be ruled by my medication regimen.”
They entered the merrily decorated restaurant and were quickly seated. Immediately they were given menus and served chips and salsa. The waiter appeared. “Anything to drink?” He inquired.
Marcy looked at John to gauge what he’d say. “Go ahead and order a drink, I think we both deserve one after that meeting with the lawyer.”
“Margarita on the rocks, no salt. Make it with Patron.” Marcy immediately said to John’s surprise.
“Make it two.” The waiter quickly disappeared knowing the tip would be good for this table. He then returned with the drinks and asked if they knew what they wanted.
“Steak fajitas for two please, extra tortillas,” John ordered and he handed over the menus. “We always seem to order the same dinner.”
“Las Palmas’ fajitas are known to be great. Plus you always give me the doggie bag.” Marcy smiled. She then looked up at John sadly. “I have something to discuss with you. I’ve been thinking about this for the past few years. You know since my MS is at the last stage, Primary Progressive, my mobility will only go downhill from now. Plus all of the additional problems will start popping up…”
“And I’ll be here for you.” John interrupted.
“That’s just it John, I don’t want you to be here to see me go downhill. I don’t want you to see me moved into a power chair because I can no longer move the wheelchair on my own. I don’t want to have you see me eat mechanically ground food because I’m having trouble swallowing. Or God forbid they put a tube in my stomach to feed me.” Marcy took John’s hand and looking deeply into John’s eyes. “I want a divorce, not because I don’t love you, but because I want you to have a life now. With the nursing home bill being picked up by Medicaid you won’t have to worry about that enormous $6,750 monthly bill. And since you see me in the care-giver model which explains we haven’t had sex in four years it will free you up to find another…”
“That’s not going to happen! I still love you! Sex isn’t the only way to show how much I do! How about all of the trips I took to the nursing home with supplies for you. What about the clothes that I’ve been washing for you?” Interjected John.
Marcy shook her head. “John, listen to me. You have been a wonderful husband. A loving, thoughtful, and caring man. It’s just that this disease has robbed us of a real marriage. Ever since I’ve been in the nursing home our visits have become increasingly more stilted. We don’t talk. You come around lunchtime which is great because you either buy our lunches or you bring them. Then we spend the next twenty or thirty minutes eating, sometimes swapping comments. After that, you leave and, then I don’t see you for a week..”
John looked down. “I know our conversations are brief but we don’t seem to have the same things going on.”
Marcy exploded: “That’s exactly the problem. You have a vibrant life outside my nursing home walls. I have a much quieter life inside the home. We don’t have much to say to one another. You could tell me more about what’s going on in your life. I only have one friend that is close to me in age but she has failing kidneys, so she goes to dialysis three days a week. My other friends here are in their seventies and eighties. Their lifestyles are very different and much more sedate. Whenever I suggest a new activity to do the majority expresses their reason why it’s not a good idea and goes back to bed. Or they initially express interest in the project but the day of it I don’t see them in the dining room where a lot of these they won’t show. I love my fossils, they all have great life stories.”
“I don’t talk about work because a lot of it is so technical, you won’t understand it.” John murmured defensively. He clutched Marcy’s hand. I don’t get this. I’ve done everything for Marcy, even put myself on the brink of bankruptcy paying for her nursing home. What more does she want? “I love you. You are the mother of my children. We have had a great twenty-nine years in marriage. I won’t leave you.”
“But I want you to,” at this Marcy started crying. I need him to understand! I want to be remembered as a vibrant woman, not the pathetic, needy nursing home resident that I am now, “I want you to remember me as I was seven years ago before MS reared its ugly head.”
John looked at her in consternation. “We can discuss this later. Drink your margarita”
They drove the short distance back to the nursing home in silence. Marcy in a morose state and John in an angry mood. But underneath his anger were feelings of guilt…and an even smaller feeling of relief?
A. L. O'Connor is an Air Force brat that has lived in five different countries and three different US states. I hold a BA in History from the University of Texas at Austin, double minor in German and Classical Civilizations with an emphasis on Rome. She lived in Izmir, Turkey and had the opportunity to see and explore Roman and Greek ruins. She also lived in Lakenheath, England and had the advantage of visiting castles, manor homes of the nobility.