This Is What Long Term Care Is About

This Is What Long Term Care Is About

Article by Kerry Peabody, CSA, CLTC Senior Account Executive

As an LTC insurance professional, you spend a lot of time trying to explain to prospects why they need to plan for long term care. I gave up on the numbers and stats a long time ago, so I don’t bother regurgitating a bunch of statistics about how many people will need long term care services, how much nursing homes cost, blah, blah, blah. No. You already know this is real; you’ve seen it – perhaps in your own family, or at work, or in a friend’s or clients’ family. LTC happens, period. Instead of re-hashing the obvious nonsense, I prefer to try and convey to them what LTC means to them and their family.

My mom passed away two Septembers ago with advanced COPD. It was horrible. My step-father was her primary caregiver for the past couple of years, assisted sporadically by hospice volunteers. Yes, she had long term care insurance, but against my numerous urgings, she long ago purchased a nursing home only policy. (This was before I got into the sales side of this business.) So, her policy was dirt cheap, but it wouldn’t pay for home care.

I live about four hours away from my mother. Her health went from bad to really bad after a hospitalization about two years ago. The weekend after she came home from the hospital, I drove down to stay for a few nights. My first night there, my step-father asked if I could stay with her while he ran some errands. “Sure,” I replied, “of course.” About thirty seconds after his truck left the driveway, however, something truly terrifying occurred to me – my mother might have to use the bathroom. The thought of physically assisting my mother with her toileting had never really struck me until that moment. I’ve been involved in LTC insurance for 21 years, but it wasn’t until right then that it finally became real for me.

Think about how you might feel as an adult child in that situation. Or worse yet, as the ailing parent? As uncomfortable as I was with the prospect, how do you suppose she felt about having her 50-year-old son take her to the toilet?

This is what long term care is about.

Another story, also very close to home. Two sisters and a brother. Mom suffers a significant health event, and simply doesn’t recover. One sister becomes the primary caregiver. The mother spends eleven months in a skilled rehab facility, then a year receiving 24/7 home care, then another three weeks in intensive care before passing away. Throughout all of this, there were frequent re-hospitalizations and three-times-per-week dialysis visits.

Fortunately, this lady had very good long term care insurancewhich provided a significant amount of financial support – as much as $11,000 per month. However, even with the financial relief the insurance provided, the caregiver sister still found herself working non-stop to ensure her mom’s needs were met. Anyone who’s seen the long term care system at work knows that patients desperately need an advocate. This sister worked endlessly to shepherd her mom through the system and manage her needs. Over time, the toll this took on the relationships between the kids was catastrophic. Now, nearly four years after their mother’s passing, they’re still working to rebuild family ties.

This is what long term care is about.

Next, a friend who owns a non-medical home health care agency. Her elderly parents live in another state, roughly six hours away. Mom has had several falls, dad’s health is failing, and neither of them should be driving, but they live in a very rural area, and having no car would, for them, mean utter and complete isolation. Despite her urgings, they don’t want to sell their house and move here, where she could help to manage their care needs as they become more immediate. This is a woman who owns a home care agency, and yet, her parents feel they know better. As it is, about every three weeks, she’s driving six hours each way to deal with a care crisis, because her parents aren’t ready to give up their home or their history in order to make it easier for her to help them.

This is what long term care is about.

Finally, a couple – clients of mine – both retired professionals. He’s 78, she’s 72. You will never find a couple that loves each other more than these two. He suffered a stroke several years ago. She’s younger, and they always knew that she would be his first line of support in the event his health changed. But, now that’s not going to work – she has Alzheimer’s. This isn’t what was supposed to happen. They have very good long term care insurance in place, so financially, they’ll be fine. But more importantly, they’ve built a network of caring friends in their community who will be there to help when things go wrong. They aren’t alone.

That’s what long term care is about.

Planning for long term care isn’t about nursing homes. It’s not about schedules or feedings or bathing and dressing or toileting. Planning for long term care is aboutpeople and families, and the impact that changing health has on them. It’s about human dignity. It’s about meeting the physical and emotional needs of loved ones without subjecting yourself to physical and emotional exhaustion. It’s about living out your own life without becoming a burden – even if your loved ones believe with all their hearts that they want to carry that burden.

You can help your clients face the fact that LTC happens, and you can help them deal with the financial side of this, and that’s immensely important. But more importantly, encourage them to talk to their loved ones, spouses, partners, kids, siblings and parents. Reinforce the relationships that will be there when they or their family members need help. Long term care happens. When it does, your clients need to be ready – and you can help. Good luck!

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