My parents were beginning to have trouble living independently, primarily because my mother was in the beginning stages of dementia. She had a second aneurism when she was 70. From that point forward, although she recovered, she was never quite the same. Over time, she became more and more dependent on my father. She had trouble remembering things, and her ability to walk was affected.
As time went on, my father was becoming overwhelmed with caring for my mom, and my husband and I often had to run over to their house to help. At the time, my parents were in their early eighties. We decided it would be easier for everyone if they lived with us so we could be instantly available to help. My husband remodeled our house into two separate living units – each had its own kitchen, living room and bedroom. Plus, we installed a chairlift so that my mother, if she became completely wheelchair-bound, would have a way to get out of their unit. A couple of years later, we were grateful for the lift, because she completely lost her ability to walk.
Having them move in with us meant I was going to have to change how I made a living. I knew I would have to take time off to assist my folks. I chose an insurance career because it provided me with the flexibility to control my schedule. At first I sold life, disability and long-term care insurance. I didn’t know anything about LTCI; it was just something that was part of my portfolio. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that LTC could be a life changer for families like ours. The more I read about it, though, and the more emergencies that befell our household, the more I realized the importance of owning it.
Early one beautiful Sunday morning, my dad was lifting my mom out of the car into her wheelchair. He got her up to the front door of their church when he suddenly passed from a heart attack. All at once, I became my mom’s primary caregiver. I couldn’t work at all because I had to assume all of my mother’s care. It was the toughest job I’ve ever had. We were scrambling every week to make ends meet while caring for someone who couldn’t perform five out of six activities of daily living and had dementia. We were forced to make decisions during a time of crisis.
Eventually, we hired help eight hours a day, seven days a week, costing close to $5,000 a month. That left us 16 hours a day without help. My mother didn’t have enough funds to cover that cost herself, so we supplemented it with our own funds. This completely halted (and reversed) our retirement savings. Plus, I had to stay home to help with her care, further compounding the cost in lost income. I never knew if a caregiver was going to show up or not — and if they didn’t, it was up to me. If I’d known about LTCI when my parents were younger, I would have insisted they purchase it.
Having a policy would have provided my parents with the funds they needed to get care much sooner, thus alleviating the strain on my dad. As a caregiver, I realized how much my dad had taken on. I experienced a tremendous amount of physical strain lifting my mom, dressing her, cleaning her and feeding her. We couldn’t go anywhere. We were virtually housebound, which meant we could never get a break.
I was lucky that my husband was so supportive. I adored my mother, who was sweet and loving throughout that time. The year that followed caring for my mother was one of the most profoundly moving years of my life. Physically, I was hurting, and I had to relinquish her care to a nearby facility where they had the manpower to care for her 24 hours a day. We visited her nearly every day of the three and a half years she was there until her eventual death at 91.
My husband and I consider LTCI ownership to be an essential part of our well-being. It is also a gift to our daughter, so she never has to be faced with what we went through.