Fair warning.... What you are about to read may disturb you — but if it spurs just one of you into action, then the end will justify the means!
We are on the brink of an impending health and financial crisis. The concern is so significant and potentially devastating that my colleague, Robert Cochran, wrote a book to help people wake up, aptly titled Pills and Bills: How to Lose it All and End Up In a Nursing Home. As he explains, continuing along the path that 90% of Americans are on — without a solid plan for paying for long-term care expenses — is to risk joining the ranks of people who will “lose it all and end up in a nursing home.”
And, my fellow women friends, this is going to hit us the hardest if we don’t take action.
Why is this a hugely important issue for women?
- First: Women live longer than men. The longer we live, the greater the need for long-term care.
- Second: Women tend to be the “caretakers" for their families. Ask anyone who has walked in those shoes about the physical, emotional, and financial drain of being a caretaker. And who is left to take care of you at your point of exhaustion?
- Lastly: Studies have shown a rise in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in women — and to add insult to injury, Alzheimer’s tends to progress more rapidly in women than men, for yet unknown reasons.
**NEWS FLASH** If you are a woman who has been considering long-term care (LTC) insurance, please don’t wait! Many insurance carriers have changed to “sex-distinct rates” where women are being charged 20% to 40% more than men, because we use more of the benefits. There are still some carriers that offer “unisex pricing,” but it is not likely to last much longer!
As a Long-Term Care Specialist and an advocate for women, I have spoken to a tremendous number of people. And I have heard a tremendous number of rationalizations about why they have not taken action to create a Long-Term Care plan. Here are the most popular ones... but, in truth, if you can convince yourself to accept and believe just one of these, you could be well on your way to “losing it all.”
- "I don't think it will happen to me." This is one of the most effective rationalizations: pretending nothing will happen and sticking your head in the sand, hoping that the risk will just go away! Maybe you think that things such as strokes, heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, or dementia “rarely occur”. And with only a 1 in 4 chance of living past 90 years old, there’s probably no chance you’ll ever need a little help around the house. Oh, and you better ignore the fact that 40% of people using LTC are less than 65 years old, because accidents and illness do happen. The bottom-line for "numbers people" is that there is a 70% chance of needing LTC if you reach age 65. If you are part of a couple, there is a 92% chance that at least one of you will need it. So, to those who think it won’t happen to them, I say, "I hope you are right... but what if you are wrong?"
- "The government will take care of me." These people usually aren’t sure exactly what part of the massive federal government will take care of them. Is it Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? The reality: Social Security has nothing to do with LTC. Medicare only pays for a maximum of 100 days — about 3 months — of long-term care, and then only under specific circumstances. So, that leaves Medicaid, which is the medical welfare program for the poor. In order for them to pay, you must first impoverish yourself, and then you become a ward of the state. You have no choice about what they will cover, or where, and you could end up in the worst of nursing homes with only the medications and treatments they choose to allow. So much for personal choice and dignity!
- "My children will take care of me." Now, you might feel that you have every right to expect that your problems, burdens, and lack of planning should become the responsibility of the ones you love the most. And you know what? It won’t ever get old for them — they'll be just as excited and happy to take care of you after the first year or two as they were after the first week. And they'll be happy to set aside their own lives, jobs, and family needs to care for you. In fact, they'll probably be saying, after they collapse for the night, that they can’t wait until tomorrow to get to do it all over again! And, no, of course, it won’t bother them at all to see you naked. Besides, you can bet they will be singing your praises to all their friends for not planning ahead and being too cheap to buy that insurance that could have paid for other people to help care for them and given everybody a better quality of life. Right? Enough said.
My point here — even if I've been a bit abrupt — has been to make it part of your mindset that LTC is important and should not be put off!
But people do come up with even more excuses. I've saved some of the best for last, and they may sound pretty familiar to you. Check back for the next part of this blog to learn more about why LTC is so necessary.