August 8, 1997 in Idaho

Problems Got Out Of Control For Senior Pair

By The Spokesman-Review

(From For the Record, August 9, 1997:) The Coeur d’Alene Youth Triathlon is today on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and Sherman Avenue. The wrong race day was given in Friday’s Close to Home column.

If Richard and Loretta Thompson had asked for help a little sooner, they might have electricity now.

But the Post Falls couple didn’t know better. They tried to handle things alone and blew it. Now they shower at friends’ homes, eat in restaurants and go to bed after sunset.

“Her insulin’s supposed to be refrigerated,” Richard says, pointing his cane at his wife. “I keep it in the shade. It’s the only thing I can do.”

Richard, who’s 65, retired at 39 after five back surgeries. Loretta’s fought congenital heart disease her entire life. She’s a fragile 61 and goes nowhere without an oxygen tank.

For 25 years, the Thompsons stretched their monthly Social Security checks to cover their basic needs. Then, last year, an emergency hit.

Their 42-year-old son needed kidney dialysis to live.

“We had to take him back and forth to Spokane for the kidney machine,” Richard says. “That took a lot of extra money.”

Before their son’s health improved, their bills piled up and so did their promises to pay. Then their car broke down. Their $1,200 monthly income left no room for emergencies or back payments.

Last March, Kootenai Electric Cooperative cut the Thompsons’ power after they failed to meet their promises or prove with a doctor’s note that lack of electricity could endanger their health. Doctors might have helped, but the Thompsons didn’t ask.

Then in July the eviction notice arrived.

“I know something has to happen now, but I don’t know what,” Richard says, overwhelmed at how quickly his life has spun out of control.

They couldn’t afford to reconnect their power - it cost $700. So they’ve lived powerless in their single-wide mobile home for four months.

Loretta apologizes for the litter speckling their living room carpet. She can’t vacuum. She has to inhale her oxygen from a pressure-driven tank because she can’t use the electric oxygen pump.

After months of trying to handle creditors alone, the Thompsons asked for help last week. An advocate for seniors immediately negotiated the power reconnection price down to $400.

Now Richard and Loretta are looking for help with their landlord. They know their problem is too big to handle on their own.

“I don’t even know what to feel anymore,” Richard says.

Speed demons

If triathlons don’t capture your imagination, you haven’t watched the Coeur d’Alene Youth Triathlon. This is the one that attracts little pot bellies, high-top tennis shoes and bikes so small adults can step over them.

Catch the action this morning along the Centennial Trail east of town. Kids of all ages will fly by on their bikes between about 9 and 10 a.m. Or catch them at the finish line at Sherman Avenue and Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive. They recover a lot faster than adults.

Art on the beach

You can’t beat the location of Sandpoint’s annual arts and crafts festival this weekend. It’s pretty easy to dash into Lake Pend Oreille when browsing the booths wears you down. And if you can’t find the treasure you want at the festival, the downtown shops are a block away.

Smoke ‘em out

I was deep in my lawn chair a week ago listening to Irish music at Coeur d’Alene’s Art on the Green when a man in front of me lighted up a stogie the diameter of a half dollar.

He was obliging enough to move to a less-crowded area when asked, but people fanned and coughed quite awhile before someone said something. He probably has no idea that his smelly smoke bonded a crowd of strangers for the rest of the evening.

What unplanned events made you collaborate with strangers? Storms? Accidents? Tell Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene 8381$: FAX to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or e-mail to

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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