In my previous post I told the story of my aunt who spent 22 years in a nursing home after breaking her hip. Since her adult children were in no position financially to pay for her care, my parents took the reins. The financial part of her care was draining, but so was the emotional segment. Frankly speaking, my parents were burnt out.
When my aunt died, my mother called me and broke the news in a very somber voice. Knowing exactly what she was thinking I asked, "Do I hear dad in the background dancing a little jig?" Two decades of financial burden was finally off his plate.
My mother chuckled and said, "Shut up. We're supposed to be sad." She was sad at some level but at that moment she was glad that it was over.
As I mentioned previously, soon after this I approached my parents about purchasing long term care insurance. Surely they would see the need after all they had been through, but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, my father was adamantly against the idea. "I'm not trying to make a sale, I'm trying to avoid going through all this again," I pled , but he wouldn't listen. "I don't care if you buy a policy from someone else, just get a policy!" I said.
Within a few years, my mother, who was now in her seventies, was in need of a knee replacement. At some point during or after the surgery she had a small stroke. The two week rehab became six weeks of rehab.
The stroke also triggered dementia. When she returned home, she insisted that family members, who were long dead, were at the house and she was going to serve them dinner. My father, who had refused my help in getting a long term care insurance policy was her caregiver. Over the next five years they settled in to a routine. I would drive two hours on the weekends to visit, sometimes with my own family, and sometimes not. It was all very stressful, as my father, I discovered, was a micromanager.My mother's health declined slowly over the years and my father wasn't doing much better. He developed a twitch in his hand and refused to discuss it. His weight dropped as he tried to manage the household, which he wasn't very good at doing, while driving my mother to her various appointments. Occasionally, he would ask me to fill in while he took care of his own medical issues.
About five years after her stroke my mother had a health setback, which was looking pretty dire. That's when my father told my sister that "Maybe I need to look into that insurance your brother tried to talk to me about." She had to explain that it was too late, no insurance company would accept my mother's application.
Seven months later my mother passed away. Now all of the attention was refocused on my father, who would later disclose that he had already been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
He insisted on living alone, and let it be known to anyone who would listen that he wanted to be left alone. My sister and I made attempts to help, which he only accepted when he was desperate. After a series of falls we intervened, saying that he needed to either go to a facility or have someone stay with him. He settled on a home health agency which was approximately double the cost of a facility.
When I asked him how he could afford the home health care, he said that he still had the rental income from the properties my mother had inherited, along with his pension. Unfortunately, he also had more expenses and debt that he didn't let us know about. To make up the difference, he was dipping into his home equity line. We didn't know about that part of his finances until his death earlier this year.
One of my regrets is that I was never able to convince my father that there was value in long term care insurance. Friends and family, who still acknowledge that he was very "difficult" man, try to tell me that I did my best, but as an agent, I failed in my job.
Nowadays, we have long term care policies, life insurance policies with "living benefits", and short term home health care policies, which would have helped my parents immensely, if they had been open to the idea. If you don't want to be a burden to your family, take a serious look into these options.
With Covid taking it's toll in facilities, home health care is more important now than ever. If you have a family member in your care, take precautions, wear a mask and wash your hands, like we've been told. Please be safe and enjoy your holidays with your loved ones so you can enjoy them next year as well.
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog! Thanks!