Elderly wife contemplates divorcing husband to save his life

Elderly wife contemplates divorcing husband to save his life
SEATTLE -- A 79-year old woman was so desperate to save her husband's life and so frustrated with the Department of Social and Health Services that she came up with the most desperate of plans.

Before Mary O'Grady contacted the Problem Solvers, she was about to divorce her husband of nearly 50 years because she thought it was the only way to save his life.

Everything Les O'Grady accomplished in his life, he did with his beloved wife Mary by his side. Together they explored the world and shared a love of books, art, architecture, aviation and classical music.

Les is suffering from overall deteriorating health. And now in what is likely the final chapter of their marriage, Mary is by her husband's side. It is where she's always been, as his wife, his caretaker, his everything.

"Our marriage vows (said) in sickness and in health," she said. "That's the whole thing. That's it."

Mary knows to truly help him, she needs help. She reached out to DSHS and didn't get what she needed, so she called the Problem Solvers. Mary said DSHS was providing some assistance, but she insisted it wasn't enough and that Les qualified for more than seven hours a day of home care help.

Through Medicaid, the state provides 196 hours a month, and Mary covers all the other hours.

"I need someone that would be the second caregiver and look after him, so I can devote my time with him to teach him to talk, have him look at music and do things he likes with whatever time he has left to try and enjoy himself, and I can't do it," she said.

Mary was desperate for help, and she came up with a desperate plan.

"I got all the divorce papers," she said.

Mary said if she wasn't married to Les, she could at least attempt to get hired by the state as his caregiver.

"I thought if I got a divorce -- we talked about it -- I said we'll get money and we can get some help," she said.

The current homecare worker, who is contracted by DSHS, agrees.

"He needs the proper care. For him to get the proper care she needs more help. He's getting great care, but it's what she can do," the caregiver said.

According to his DSHS file, Les has approval for 346 hours of care each month, which is much more than the 196 he's currently getting.

Bill Moss, DSHS's Director of Home and Community Services, agreed to investigate the discrepancy. Moss admitted that based on his condition, Les was due more home care hours than he was getting. Another file revealed where things went south. As it turns out, Mary either fired or disagreed with every healthcare provider sent to the home, and it got so bad that none of them would take Les as a client.

"We tried to make that happen, but at the end of the day we have to have willing providers," Moss said.

So DSHS got creative. Instead of a healthcare provider, they found a home health aide agency willing to take Les as a client. But without explanation, his home service hours shrunk from 346 to 196 a month.

"It's absolutely disgusting," Mary said. "He deserves better quality of life than what he's getting from DSHS."

For months, Mary fought to get those hours back, even calling the Governor's office. DSHS is still investigating the issue, but Moss admits Les is entitled to those 346 hours.

Moss said he thinks a coding error may be to blame for the reduction of hours. Mary thinks the extra help will give her a much needed break and give her husband some peace in the end of his life.