NEW ORLEANS–America is undergoing a longevity revolution, said baby boomer expert Gail Sheehy in the keynote address at the Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference here, sponsored by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill.
With their parents aging, the next big passage for many boomers is caregiving, said Sheehy, author of the 1976 best seller, “Passages.” Her new book, “Passages in Caregiving,” due out in May, is largely about a developing crisis in providing long term care to those with chronic health conditions.
Sheehy praised a feature of some new LTC policies that provides a care coordinator to help caregivers handle the duties of tending to elderly family members in need of extended assistance.
Sheehy became an extended caregiver when her late husband, Clay Felker, founder of New York Magazine, developed cancer. Starting when she was in her 50s, she played caregiver on and off for 17 years as Felker’s condition passed in and out of remission.
Caregiving “is a job nobody applies for,” Sheehy said. “No pay. No benefits. But someone is going to suffer unless you intercede.”
The couple did not have long term care insurance, “much to our great regret,” she said.
Almost 50 million people in the U.S. are in a caregiver role, she said. Many don’t know how to negotiate Medicare rules or to find the different treatments available for their loved one, or how long their parent would need extended care.
She described caregiving as “a labyrinth, a long path with abrupt twists.” Eventually, the caregiver gets to the point where he or she says, “I can’t do this any more.”
It’s important for the caregiver to have help so he or she can have respite.
“If you know what to expect, it’s easier,” Sheehy said.