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Life Health > Long-Term Care Planning

My Spouse, My Caregiver

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It’s a typical scenario: The first spouse who needs long-term care is cared for by the other spouse.

Rarely do couples consider what this will truly mean when they are much older, and faced with this situation.

As a former nursing home administrator, I saw the consequences – emotional, physical and financial fatigue that often results from this scenario. Now, as a long-term care insurance specialist and broker, I try to help people while they can still plan and insure for potential long-term care problems.

I remember an elderly frail lady greeting me at her door for an appointment and saying to me, “Feel the muscles in my arms! I’ve developed them turning my husband over in bed every two hours to prevent bedsores and helping him transfer to a wheelchair so he can go to the bathroom and return back to his bed. I’m frail, I’m tired and I need help. I’m not able to care for my husband anymore. I physically just can’t do the work. I don’t know who to turn to for help.”

She was homebound to their house 24 hours a day because she could not leave him alone …even to go to the grocery store for supplies. I found out she didn’t even have a support person available to help her situation. As an insurance agent, I was not able to offer her a long-term care insurance policy that would help pay for the cost of care she and her husband needed. It was too late. She, as the caregiver, was uninsurable because of her physical limitations, and now she too was beginning to need assistance with her activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing. Her husband was losing his informal caregiving wife in the process because of her physical and mental deterioration.

This is exactly the kind of situation where one (or both!) spouses will need to be admitted into a nursing home. It’s easy to imagine an alternate scenario if the couple had planned ahead and purchased long-term care insurance while they were both healthy. Perhaps, without the stress of having to provide her husband’s care alone, her health would have been better and they could have both enjoyed living in their own home indefinitely.

There are two options for home-based care. One is unpaid care provided by family and friends, called “informal care.” The other home care option is professional (paid) care, such as those provided by a personal care attendant, home health aide, or trained assistant.

When prospects tell you they don’t need LTC insurance because their spouse will take care of them, remember this article – and the emotional, physical and financial factors that often materialize when family members take on the task of providing informal care. Encourage your prospects to do the planning before they need care and unnecessarily burden their loved ones with the very real consequences of informal caregiving.


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