The following is a true story. Anna was a beautiful, intelligent young woman living in silicon valley with her whole life ahead of her. She had just begun what she hoped would be the job that would lay the foundation for a rewarding career in high tech. She was dating her college sweetheart, Jack, who she hoped to marry in the next year or two. They were talking about having a family and her life seemed too good to be true, it was. One night about 7 pm just as Anna was leaving work she got a phone call from her mother that her father, Ted, was admitted to the hospital after suffering a major stroke, they didn’t know if he was going to make it through the night. Anna rushed across town to be by her father’s side. When she saw her father laying there with wires and tubes hooked up to him, she said to herself how is this possible, he is only 49 years old, he has never smoked and only occasionally had a beer. He seemed so healthy, never getting very sick except for a cold once in a while. She looked down at him and squeezed his hand and his eyes opened and he smiled. Anna’s mother took his other hand and held it tightly. Then he seemed to drift away. Hours passed, doctors and nurses came and went, IV bags were changed, but there was little change in Ted’s condition. Anna and her mother sat beside Ted’s bed and held his hands. Then about 4 in the morning he took a deep breath, exhaled and he was gone. The shock was overwhelming.
Following her father’s funeral, Anna realized that she had to be there to help her mother adjust after being married to her father for 26 years. They sorted through his belongings finding it hard to throw anything away. Anna moved home to be closer to her Mom. She decided she needed to put off her marriage for a year, then it became two years and then three. The days and months all seemed to blur together; work, be with her mom and share too few hours with Jack.
One day she and Jack had been out to listen to a band they liked and to dance, it seemed to lighten the load on Anna’s shoulders. Afterward, they went to have something to eat. When they were driving home Jack asked Anna how much longer she planned to be living with her mother? Anna hadn’t thought about it, it’s just something she did day by day. Jack basically gave her an ultimatum that they had to start their life together or he was going to move on with his.
It felt like ton of bricks were dropped on Anna’s shoulders. She didn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings by moving out and marrying Jack and she definitely didn’t want her mother to be alone if something happened and she either hurt herself or became mentally incapacitated. After weeks of sleepless nights Anna told Jack she needed to be with her Mom, her heart ached, but she knew it was best after all, her parents had sacrificed to raise her and put her through college this was her way of repaying them.
A year later Anna’s mother fell and broke her hip, months of rehab and physical therapy followed. Her mother was in her 50’s when arthritis set in to her hip and she became less able to move around without help. By this time Anna had changed jobs a couple of times, getting a promotion each time. When she become a Vice President she had to spend more time at work, she was pleased with the accomplishments, but she felt guilty about leaving her mother with a caregiver.
Then one day Anna got a call from the caregiver that her mom was refusing to eat and had thrown her lunch plate across the room and screamed at the caregiver. The caregiver cleaned it up, but was not happy about being treated like that by Anna’s mother and had given notice. The caregiver was costing thousands of dollars a month. What was Anna to do, she didn’t want to put her mother in a “home” and it is hard to find good, caring, honest caregivers.
Anna convinced the President of the company to let her work remotely from home three days a week, but her work began to suffer because her mother would sleep during the day and be awake at night. Anna was exhausted. She had no life, no friends outside of work, no boyfriend and her work was less and less rewarding both personally and financially.
One morning Anna was getting dressed for work and looked in the mirror, she didn’t recognize herself. Where she had been a natural beauty, she now had lines and looked tired. Where her mouth use to have a smile it was almost always in a permanent frown. There were streaks of grey through her chestnut hair and the sparkle in her blue eyes had vanished. How is it possible that fourteen years had passed so quickly. She was now 44 years old. She had no children, her job was suffering, her expenses seemed to increase every month and she had little to show for the last fourteen years other than being a “good daughter”.
Then just after Thanksgiving, her boss called her into his office and told her they were shutting down her division at the end of the year and that she would receive a six month severance package and a year of benefits, he said he regretted that they had no other job for her in the company, he also said he would give her a good reference and wished her well. Now what was she going to do? She works in a youth oriented industry and by most industry standards Anna was considered “old”. She had little savings left and didn’t want to touch her 401k. Her mother continued her slow downward slide, between her mother’s arthritis and increasing dementia she was a handful. Anna took consulting jobs to make ends meet, they also provided some flexibility, but when she needed to travel she had to find a caregiver on short notice. Anna never achieved the same earnings she had before. She had given up her dream of having a family and a rewarding career, but she took solace in the fact that she had done what was right.
Anna’s mother lived to be 77, when she died Anna was in her early 50s. Now Anna was all alone and had nothing to look forward to. Who was going to care for her when she got older? Where would she find happiness?
Most people think they are going to die quickly and there will be plenty left for their heirs, but the reality is most people are incapacitated for years before they die. Ask most people and they will tell you they don’t want to be put in a “home”, they would prefer to stay at home, but the cost of home health care is astronomical and going up every year. Home care drains people’s savings and strains their relationships with their children and spouses who should be there to provide support and comfort, not to have to clean up their parent when they have incontinence problems. Nursing homes are only short-term solutions and have very specific requirements for admission and Medicare doesn’t cover most home health care costs.
Simply put long-term care insurance is asset protection. If we could discipline ourselves to save and invest the same amount as we pay in premiums that would be great because we could save the cost of insurance, but the fact is, we will use those savings the first time we have a need. When you buy a long-term care insurance policy it is like a forced savings plan and it is there when you need it, plus none of us knows when we will fall ill or have an accident.
After being referred to California Trust by one of her mother’s caregivers, we spent time with Anna to learn what she enjoyed doing and what she wanted to do with the rest of her life; we then began to help her accomplish those goals. Anna has built a successful small business online in just three years, she is dating a man she met when she joined a hiking club, her health and mental outlook have improved and she is happier than she has been in decades.
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