Five Things to Know Before You Commit to Caring for Aging Loved Ones

This is a guest post from Lisa Wendt. As the president and chief executive officer of LifeSecure, Lisa is actively involved in long term care insurance industry leadership and advocacy efforts.

If you called me an idealist, over-protective, or if you said I was biting off more than I could chew, I would have argued vehemently – but you would have been right! Without a single bit of information, save for my imagination on what it would be like and my sense of duty and commitment, I insisted on having my Dad, then age 83, move in with my husband and me.

I told my husband it wouldn’t be a problem: Dad’s cool. No Alzheimer’s. He still gets around the house and takes care of himself. After all, he lived alone with limited help. It will be fine.

Today, complete with the battle scars from learn-as-you-go frustrations, I am more convinced than ever that planning for my own later years is a must for me and my family, because I did not know that…

  1. No vacations – unless you can afford a live-in caregiver for approximately $20 an hour. In my case, Dad refused to go to a short-term nursing facility and I felt guilty.
  2. Dementia only gets worse – although Dad’s senile dementia was minor in the beginning, his condition would trap us so that we could not go anywhere for more than a few hours at a time for fear he would attempt to cook or walk down the street alone – neither of which he could do without hurting himself.
  3. Your career will suffer- Numerous and inevitable health issues would pop up with more frequency, causing me to miss critical work time.
  4. Your loved ones will suffer: My husband’s dream of building his restaurant as a retirement income strategy would fall to the wayside because it would cost more and more to support my Dad while we both worked extensive hours.
  5. Your own well-being suffers: The issue of dealing with Dad’s memory loss and the associated combative behavior would cause fights, arguments and a lot of guilt.

My Dad lived to be 90 years old, and near the end of his retirement savings when he passed away. I kept my promise to him to have him stay with us for as long as he was able, but I paid a bigger price than I could have imagined all those years ago when I made that promise.

Few people fully understand the impact of longevity and frailty on the family. That is perhaps why studies show that individuals who actually plan for their long term care needs are those who have gone through a similar experience as mine. Most, however, remain like I was- blissfully unaware.

Please have a real conversation with your loved ones about their future long term care options. To help you get started, ask yourself these ten questions. Planning ahead for long term care is a decision you and your family will never regret.

Disclosure: LifeSecure is a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, sponsor of A Healthier Michigan.

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