This is an introductory blog for an ongoing discussion on Long Term Caring. It is NOT a discussion you expect from an insurance agent specializing in these products. The goal is to paint a picture of caring for the aged and point out short comings in the current system. To understand the need to prepare everyone for the imminent onslaught of baby boomers that are about to enter this arena. Education needs to start now. Employers need to employ tactics to prepare for the business interruption and how they can help their employees.
Note: I have always been and will continue to be supportive of Long Term Care Finance Planning. However, financing and legal preparation are not the topic of this particular conversation. Please feel free to reach out for a discussion on the several routes to attack this looming financial issue. You may be able to shore up your liabilities by simply moving your existing life and annuities around. Existing cash value policies can be used to fund new life policies that include Long Term Care benefits.
My parents did everything right. I can’t imagine the additional stress and issues that we would have had to tackle had they not done the groundwork. They set aside money to pay for their long term care needs. They kept up the most comprehensive PPO healthcare options. They even made sure all legal documents were in order so that we could make decisions and transactions on their behalf. With all of the obvious boxes checked on the the road to long term care planning, future caregivers need so much more education and preparation for what may lie ahead. Through our story, I would like to enlighten you on things that we have learned and suggest how we can prepare future generations on these overseen aspects.
Caregivers have a myriad of levels of responsibility. From taking over the physical care of one or more individuals to overseeing and directing hired care workers and facilities. Every day you need to take the time to review the situation, seek out new information, find new resources, weigh care options and make decisions. In all of the conversations I have with people, I get the idea most people don’t understand the reality of the situation. It’s not about the money, the time investment or the hard work. It is personal, it is heart-wrenching, it is about your family…….it’s about caring.
Although we had been introduced to the issue years ago when we assumed the oversight of care of our grandparents, we never expected what we have and are continuing to experience today. When we look back, the experience with our grandparents went as predicted and was on one end of the long term care spectrum.
When we became empty-nesters, we moved into a home with the proverbial “parents room” downstairs. We had always promised to bring my parents home when and if they ever needed the help. There was no way MY parents would go to a nursing home with strangers! In almost every conversation on the topic, clients tell me they don’t need much LTC insurance because they are just going to take care of their parents at their home. It’s the master and universal plan for most American families. I don’t know the numbers, but it doesn’t always go down like that and it certainly didn’t go down that way for us! Before you start making pronouncements and promises, here are a few reasons this plan may be problematic.
- Your parents may not want to move in with you because “they can take care of themselves”. When they need you, they will likely need medical oversight and/or professional nursing care.
- The issue could come up under catastrophic/emergency conditions. It may not be a planned event. Many things in your life will be set aside until further notice.
- If there is any issue with Alzheimers or Dementia, you aren’t offering someone a place to live, you are offering to be someone’s shadow 24/7. Day and night, every second of every day. If they are a fall risk due to physical limitations, there is NO wiggle room on this 24/7 shadowing. You had better have back up even if you just want to run to the bathroom or walk outside to get the mail. You will need to make sure your bed is right next to theirs because nighttime no longer means anything.
- You may need to make adjustments to make your home ADA accessible or at least safe.
- All hands on deck. You can’t assign this to one spouse to handle. It’s takes a team.
With the same mindset as most Americans, the following is how this journey launched for us.
My parents would not be told where they need to live or that they need any intruders in their home. We took them on tours of wonderful Assisted Living Facilities and even tried in-home visiting caregivers. As members of the Greatest Generation, they are tough, self sufficient and have withstood everything the world has thrown at them in the last 80 years. We couldn’t force them to move to safety and we were less inclined to push it because they had mastered hiding their mental and physical decline. My dad was quick to admit years prior that he could no longer take care of financial duties and immediately turned that over to us, but that was the end of their request for help.
It wasn’t lost on us that they were lacking in personal care, acting forgetful, ignoring illnesses and becoming increasingly fragile and physically unstable. With this in mind, for years we had ramped up our oversight by making the countless 100 mile drives after work. Even predicting something was going to happen, we had no idea how traumatic and overwhelming it was going to be for everyone.
Just hours after returning home from the Thanksgiving dinner we had taken to their home, we get a phone call from the ER in the middle of the night. Both of my parents had fallen in the kitchen and had been brought to the hospital with a myriad of injuries.
My father was immediately hospitalized with a fractured pelvis where he would remain for months. After a frantic search for my mom at the hospital, we found the unbelievable. Due to preexisting conditions that precluded any surgical intervention and my mother’s insistence on getting home, the hospital didn’t see a need to admit her. She was discharged into a taxi with a crushed shoulder that had been put in a cloth sling and was whisked off with no surgery, no painkillers, no notice to family. She was off in the care of a random taxi driver that had set her in a chair in her home where we found her the next day. She was scared, incapable of moving (or being moved), broken and bruised, partially blind, very confused, in excruciating pain, dependent on oxygen and in need of a multitude of cardiac and pulmonary drugs.
That was Day 1. Thanksgiving 2014.
LESSON TO LEARN: Be prepared to be available on the spur of the moment. Have a plan for your family and business responsibilities. Have all legal documents, insurance and personal health data available in various formats on hand. Do it now.