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The Kenyons' Plan

When Your Spouse Gets Sick

Lloyd’s health is declining.

Linda quit work to be with him.

Their investments are down.

Their real estate is worth less.

They need to plan for Lloyd’s care.

Linda and Lloyd Kenyon married in 1998—his second marriage, her third—and Lloyd moved into Linda’s home in rural Keno, Oregon.

Lloyd, 65, is a Vietnam veteran and former firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service partially disabled from breaking his neck and back decades ago. He loves opera and classical music.

Linda, 66, raised three kids while pursuing a college degree and worked until last year as a title officer, verifying real estate claims, in nearby Klamath Falls.

A skilled handyman, Lloyd began an addition on their two-bedroom prefab home. Linda kept working—she loved her job. On weekends, the couple was active in the local Lions Club, raising money for charitable projects and assembling holiday food baskets for the needy.

They had money enough to enjoy life. Linda earned a good salary. In addition to her home, she owned a rental property, ten acres of undeveloped land, and, at their peak value, over $400,000 in investment accounts, mostly consisting of stocks. Lloyd received disability payments from Social Security and had a small IRA. He brought no other assets to their union. But since he was working on the house, Linda gladly added his name to the deed, keeping her savings in her own name.

Lloyd’s Health

About five years ago, Linda recalls, Lloyd began acting strangely. “He had occasional delusions and started running up big bills buying whatever caught his fancy,” she says. Their debt on credit cards and auto loans ballooned to $24,000. At first, doctors at a nearby U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital identified it as a bipolar disorder. But last year, after Lloyd gave away his tools—$30,000 worth—and began taking long aimless drives, the diagnosis changed: early-onset dementia.

Linda tried to manage the situation as best she could while continuing to work. But when she tried to take away his car keys, Lloyd became aggressive. Prescriptions to subdue his unruly behavior made him listless, barely able to care for himself. Reluctantly, Linda quit her job last year to attend to her ailing husband, trimming their income—Social Security plus rental income and investment proceeds—to a little over $40,000 a year, plus any investment proceeds. She is unwilling to hire caregivers, and support services are limited in the area anyway. Now, she says, “I’m worried we don’t have enough to see us through, especially if I can’t care for Lloyd myself anymore.”

Affording a Move

Linda is considering moving with Lloyd to Salem, about 250 miles away, where her older daughter, Karin Bastuscheck, lives in an apartment with her nine-year-old son, Derryk. Buying a home there, she reasons, means support could go both ways: “My daughter and grandson could live with us, contributing rent, and we could help one another when we need it.” There are also more options for Lloyd’s care near Salem, including a VA hospital in Portland. Eventually Lloyd might qualify for admission to a VA long-term care facility in Portland, though Linda would rather not think about that possibility just yet.

Meanwhile, she doesn’t feel she can risk relocating until she sells their real estate holdings. Lloyd’s unfinished renovation effort makes their one-story rambler unfit to sell at the moment. Due to zoning restrictions imposed after her purchase, the nearby undeveloped ten-acre parcel they own may have little value. And of course the housing market is in an historic slump. “Our real estate isn’t worth what I thought it would be,” Linda says.

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