I usually write personal stories here, leaving the science and practicalities surrounding memory loss to more qualified sources like the Alzheimer’s Association website. But this morning I gave the following advice to a friend who suggested I share it here. If you are reading this blog, you or someone close to you has probably been diagnosed with memory loss and may not qualify for long term insurance, but for the rest of you, especially caregivers, I have three words: LONG TERM INSURANCE.
It isn’t cheap and the costs and benefits vary according to your situation. But it is easy to research on the government’s long term care site. For balance read the less than enthusiastic report in Consumer’s Report and then visit AARP’s longterm care calculator site. There are several sites that compare rates of providers. I am not saying BUY, but at least look into the possibility.
I will always be grateful to my mother for setting an example before it was too late for Ralph and me to consider long term insurance for our uncertain future.
She purchased long term insurance after my father’s death when she was over 70. Fifteen remarkably independent years later, she fell into a depression and stopped eating. Although we’d spent my childhood, adolescence and young-to-middle adulthood not much liking each other, age mellowed us both into polite if slightly stiff cordiality by the time I flew down to stay with her in the retirement condo Ralph had helped my father purchase years earlier in Key West. Key West, where I’ve had some of the best times of my life including my honeymoon, lost all its pleasant associations during the miserable two weeks that followed. Finally the visiting nurse gave my mother two choices: one, continue starving herself with the understanding that I would not be able to stay as long as it took for her to die; or two, fly back with me to Georgia and get medical care.
We flew to Georgia the next day. For the next nine years, until weakening health required her move into the nursing home where she resides now, my mother lived in the mother-in-law suite fortunately installed in our basement already.
And it was okay, not great exactly, not what my father would have called “a bowl of cherries.” Sure there were crises (like when she called 9-1-1 the night I neglected to go down to say goodnight after getting home from a movie) and the family issues that always arise among near and far adult children when a parent is failing. But what would have been a completely untenable situation, emotionally and practically, worked out only because that long term insurance. offered a financial safety net.
Purchased so late in my mother’s life, the insurance had payment limits and an end-point, which she reached about three years ago. But for seven years Genworth promptly paid about half the salaries of the excellent full-time caregivers we hired. Social security and an annuity paid most of the rest. Her savings held more or less steady—a good thing since her nursing home is not cheap and those savings are coming in handy.
Three years ago when Ralph started getting those notices that he would soon be eligible for Medicare, I suggested we re-examine our insurance situation. Since both of us have always been self-employed, we’ve always kept our cost down by carrying a very high deductible. After all, as Ralph pointed out, we didn’t need more insurance because we were both extremely healthy.
But so was my mother as I pointed out.
We called AARP who recommended Genworth, which happened to be the provider that was working so well for my mother. After some back and forth and a visit from a knowledgeable if less than personable insurance agent, Ralph agreed to go ahead and buy the insurance. He had not been diagnosed back then of course and I was not consciously acknowledging any change; in fact we joked together about his bad memory when we had to take a memory quiz to qualify as low risk applicants for the best policy available. We both passed. I can’t help wondering, if we had waited a year or even six months, would Ralph be insured now?
Thankfully, he is insured. And just as important, so am I. We don’t need extra help right now. But given the way Alzheimer’s progresses, a time may come when Ralph requires more care-taking than I can offer alone. And even now, if my health took a downturn I know I couldn’t count on Ralph to care for me. Having the long term insurance means I don’t have to.
So, at the risk of repeating myself–which I do all the time these days anyway so what’s one more time–consider buying long term insurance as soon as possible.
Decide if you can afford to buy the insurance, and if you can afford not.