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Case study: How to get millennials talking about long-term care

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What follows is a journal-like blog post that recounts my experiences with caregiving and lack of long-term care planning. This would make a great case study for LTC agents and brokers on how to reach millennials and boomers to talk about long-term care and longevity planning.

It’s been a whirlwind of days, hours, and minutes. One second, I am in Denver, Colorado, and the next, I’m landing back home. Straight from the airport, and after a brief stop at a local supermarket for food after a 9 hour flight and one layover, I’m taken to the hospital where my grandma has been staying for the past week.

Now, even though I’m the only (paid) writer in my family, it would seem that they forgot how to use their adjectives to describe the scene…or maybe one is never really prepared for the harshness of reality. What I saw once I went in her room was far worse than anything my big imagination could’ve conjured. I will spare you the gritty details, but take it from me: it wasn’t pretty.

Lying on the hospital bed of a shared room that was somehow colder than the weather in Denver that same day, my 93-year-old grandmother looked like she had melted into the bed. But she woke up once I hurried to her side and held her hand. A flush of color rushed to her face and an incredulous breathless voice said: “What are you doing here? You came.” She could barely speak, but I could see her inner strength stirring up inside. She’s not letting Death get its cold bony fingers on her … yet.

It is incredible how sometimes sick patients react to loved ones. My family and I all saw how grandma was improving each day, but very, very slowly. Her lungs were weak after a bout of pneumonia that almost killed her. And even though all of her bloodwork came back normal, she was so weak, she couldn’t even sit up or lay on her side on the bed.

She was released from the hospital a day later to our surprise, since she still had oxygen on all the time and was receiving respiratory therapy every six hours. The doctor, a cardiologist, didn’t tell us what the next steps were. He only sent us a list of medicines to take home.

But what happened in the next few days was unimaginable and quite a shock for all of us: Even though my grandma could not move, we had to take care of her 24/7. The doctor hadn’t even ordered a nurse to come to the house to check her vitals and her progress. He didn’t order an electric adjustable bed or other home care equipment.

Lessons learned:

That’s where a well thought-out plan would’ve kicked in. Did I or my family ever think that the 93-year-old matriarch of our family would get so ill so quickly? No. She was a highly independent “mega Senior” or almost-centennarian who was strong and healthy. She never visited a hospital in her life, not even to give birth to my father or my uncle, only to work there as a nurse.

Did any of us ever stop to think what would happen if she needed home care or, G-forbid, be interned into a nursing home? No. In fact, my father refuses to get her into a nursing home, even though my family is ill-equipped to handle any kind of medical treatment. None of us even have basic CPR training.

So, the question is: How much do your clients value their peace of mind, their mental stability, their sanity? While some might argue that the truth is that “you’re never really prepared or ready for anything like this,” as many people have told me, even having a plan in place — what to do, who to call, where to find resources, where to find important health insurance and Medicare documents, who can give you advice and become your “home care coach” — can really help your client to not become a dog chasing its own tail, clouded by the stress of what’s happening and feeling overwhelmed by seeing someone who was strong last week go down the slippery slope of illness in old age. 

See also:

How much does your client value their mental stability & why planning helps

UnitedHealth: Older Americans face more health threats 

Medicare and skilled nursing care bills