When Long-Term Care becomes Personal

My mother was handicapped the last twenty years of her life, and my father (lovingly!) played the role of primary caregiver. My two sisters and I helped out whenever possible, though we were separated from Mom and Dad by hundreds of miles.

And my father-in-law battled Alzheimer’s for 12 years.

It comes as no surprise that long-term care (LTC) is personal to me.

I’m in the retirement planning business, and during planning conversations with clients, it’s my responsibility to start the conversation about the rather circumvented topic of long-term care.

Most people think of insurance when I bring up the topic of long-term care. But, while insurance may come into the conversation eventually, my goal is to have a broad, holistic approach. I begin by asking my clients if they have ever had any firsthand experiences with long-term care and what conversations they have had with family members on the subject.

For the most part, unless you’ve had a personal experience with being a caregiver or dealing with the expenses involved with paying for care, it’s a topic that is unfamiliar and seems unimportant.

Most know the statistics.

The likelihood of each of us needing long-term care at some point in our life is high. Thankfully, it’s usually not for a lengthy period of time — less than three years on average. Women statistically outlive men, therefore increasing the chances of needing care (the longer you live, the higher the probability of needing care).

“It will not happen to me.”

“I’ll die quickly.”

“I will just take a walk and never come home.”

These are just a few of the responses I’ve heard over the years — not unexpectedly.

Join the conversation.

When I go over the choices (self-insure, spend-down to have the government pay the bill, or different solutions to transfer the financial risk to an insurance company), I can become somewhat animated (so I have been told!). I can’t help myself. I’m passionate about the necessity of dealing with the risk. Why? It’s not so much about the financial implications (which could be huge) but the personal and mental anguish that may fall upon both the caregiver and the individual requiring the care.

The burden of caregiving will inevitably fall upon the person or persons that love you the most. They will be there for their loved ones and do whatever it takes to make sure they are comfortable and cared for. Their sacrifices may be great — from quitting their job to become caregivers and chipping in financially to ensuring you receive top-shelf care and traveling back and forth over long distances to be there for you. You get the message.

So — if not for you, for your loved ones — investigate the choices and solutions that are available to help minimize the financial and personal burdens that may fall upon them. It’s the least we can do.