Long-Term Care: Planning for the Future
The experience of caring for elderly relatives can make a real difference to how you view the importance of planning for long-term care. I recently interviewed a range of people who had looked after older relatives with different medical conditions. Here are two of their stories that illustrate the difference long-term care insurance can make, not only to the person who needs care, but also to that person’s family and caregivers.
As the only nurse in the family, Mary seemed to be the one who was naturally expected to be the caregiver when her Aunt Julie suffered a stroke. Although she enjoyed the experience of being able to work one to one with someone who had had a stroke, and made great strides towards recovering both her mobility and her speech, Mary could only take six months out of work, and was concerned about what would happen after that.
When her aunt announced her intention to move into an assisted living facility, Mary was able to help her choose the place that was right for her. Fortunately, Aunt Julie had worked in business all her life, and her employer had encouraged her to buy long-term care insurance a couple of years before her retirement, so she could afford to do this. Mary soon settled her into a facility that was also linked to a nursing home, so that she had the peace of mind of knowing that if her aunt’s condition deteriorated or she suffered another stroke, she would be well looked after.
Mary was still the main caregiver in the family and continued to visit her aunt on a regular basis. She soon came to realize that Aunt Julie was enjoying living in a community, had made new friends and her social life was much more interesting than it had been before her stroke, so she had no worries about the future.
Valerie told me her story after visiting her mom in a nursing home. She had moved away from her family when she left college, and only visited her parents a few times a year. When her father had died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of sixty eight, she had been shocked to find out how much he had been doing for her mom. Sue came to realize that her mom couldn’t cook herself a meal and had no idea how to do the laundry. When she spoke to her brother and sister about this, although they knew their dad had cared for their mom, they were unaware of the severity of her condition.
The family decided that Valerie, as the only one without dependents, should be their mom’s main caregiver, and she moved in with her. Her father had never told any of the family about their mom’s problems with memory and managing day to day life. When Valerie took her to the doctor, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which explained many of the difficulties she had been having. According to USA today, Alzheimer’s is projected to afflict 8 million Americans by 2030. Although Valerie found caring for someone with dementia very challenging, she managed for just over two years, with help from the rest of the family. Alzheimer’s disease can be even more difficult to cope with than some serious physical conditions, and eventually her mother’s condition deteriorated to the extent that she could not be left alone for any length of time as she was at risk of hurting herself. When Valerie could not cope any more the family decided to look for long-term care for their mother. Valerie told me that her parents had never believed in saving for a rainy day, and the only capital they had was in the house, so this would have to be sold to pay the care fees.
They found a good home where their mother could be cared for twenty four hours a day, and although she did not want to leave her home, she did settle in quite well. The family were astounded at the cost of care for people with dementia, and worked out that the proceeds from selling the house would only last about three years. Susan confided in me that, although her mom did not recognize her any more, she was physically very fit and could easily live for many years to come. The family tried to take out insurance, but it was too late, and they realized they would have to shoulder the financial burden of the care bills themselves.
Valerie told me that she, her brother and her sister had learned an important lesson from this, and had all bought long-term care insurance for themselves to save their children from going through the same situation. She explained that it was really quite affordable if you are healthy enough when you take the policy out, and that she was pleased to know that she would not be a burden to her nieces and nephews if she ever needed long-term care.
*names have been changed to protect anonymity
Evelyn Scott is a freelance writer and former nutritionist who specializes in writing articles about health, diet and fitness. She lives with her family in Tennessee. Please welcome her as a guest author to the Got LTCi.com site.