Margie Barrie, a veteran long-term care insurance (LTCI) agent, marketer and educator, has been writing articles about long-term care (LTC) planning and related issues for years.
Here she talks about what happened when her mother fell.
Several months ago, I received the telephone call that nobody wants to get. My brother called from Baltimore. He was in the emergency room with my 97-year-old mother who had fallen and broken her hip.
I am now experiencing long-term care planning from a totally different viewpoint: as a caregiver, and doing it long distance. I live about 1,000 miles away in Florida.
This is a huge reality check. I’ve been immersed in long-term care planning since 1990. But teaching it and selling this protection are totally different than living it with a loved one.
I hope that by sharing my experiences and insights about how to navigate the system, it will help you to help your clients, so they can emerge with the best outcome. And it is not easy.
(Related: What to Say Now About LTCI Rate Increases)
This is a reality check about a situation that is going to affect all of us at some point. Nobody is going to escape — neither your clients nor you.
I’ve calling these revelations the Four Realities. For each reality, I will identify a message that you can communicate to your client.
To start, here are more details about my trip to Baltimore. I flew there after receiving the call from my brother. The Tuesday after I arrived, Mom had hip surgery and on Thursday, they moved her to the nursing home across the street for rehab. Two weeks later, she was discharged from the facility . She is now home.
The good news: Thank goodness, my mother has great long-term care insurance, so we don’t have to worry about where the dollars would come from. We started with around-the-clock care, and a week later, we cut back to one 8-hour shift a day. As you can imagine, she is a high fall risk.
My initial expectation: My mother is a wonderful person, and I have been fortunate that we are very close and rarely disagree. I never even considered that this would change.
The bad news: The dynamics of dealing with my mother with the new circumstances.
Here’s examples of what I have encountered:
My mother was moved to the nursing home at 9 p.m. I arrived shortly after to find her very upset about the fact that she was sharing a room, since she had been expecting a private room.
I had warned her she would be getting a semi-private room, since that’s what Medicare covers for rehab. But she hadn’t believed me. I finally asked the charge nurse to talk to her.
At 11 p.m., I told my mother I was leaving, and we would resume our discussion the next morning. She was still upset.
When I arrived at the facility the next morning, my mother informed me that they had awoken her in the middle of the night because her roommate had died.
The outcome is because she had made such a fuss the night before, I think she had intimidated the nurse. The other bed stayed vacant for almost two weeks. She did get her private room!
When she returned home and we started discussing home health care details — such as when to reduce the caregiver hours from 24 to 8 — it was soon clear that we did not see eye-to-eye. I wanted more; she wanted less. Managing my mother has been more stressful than managing her care at this point.
What have I learned and what advice can you provide to your clients?
Reality 1: Caregiving is tough.
When you hear the words from a client, “I don’t need this, because my family will take care of me” — a reality check is needed. Yes, your family is there. But do you want your kids to take you to the bathroom, help you shower, and give up their careers to become a full-time caregiver?
One of the best things about having long-term care insurance policies is that the family gets the ability to supervise the care rather than provide it hands-on.
Think of this in terms of Depends adult diapers, sheets with plastic coating and rubber gloves. When I purchased these items at Walmart, would I want to use them myself to care for my mother, or give the bag of supplies to the home health care aide, who had sent me to buy them? I know my answer. In fact, without Selma, our wonderful aide, I’m not sure how I would have managed.