American families are discovering firsthand how being a caregiver for a parent, or other loved one is difficult. The issue of future long-term health care - or worse - a current need for long-term health care - is becoming a tipping point for families as they deal with the physical, emotional, and financial burdens extended care places on an entire family.
Speaking on the TV Show "62WhoKnew," host Mike Banner explained a dilemma from his personal experience with his father. Banner was his dad’s caregiver. His Dad, a decorated WWII veteran and a former POW, had Medicare, a supplement, and even VA benefits. Yet, when it came to his long-term health care, it was not enough.
"You want to be a son. You want to be a daughter. Being a caretaker is something different," Banner said.
Banner said things became difficult with going to the bathroom and showering. He explained they were very close, but it started changing the relationship when he started having accidents.
"When he had the occasional accident in bed, he (his dad) looked at me straight in the eye and said, you are not supposed to be doing this. He said that is not what I brought you up to do. He said I want you to be my son, not my caretaker," Banner said.
Banner explained that many people don't realize the consequences of long-term health care on a loved one unless they have been through it. It is embarrassing for both the caregiver and the care recipient.
Surveys have shown many times that most people don't want their adult children to be burdened with the role of being a caregiver. Instead, they want them to remain being family.
"You want someone else to be your parent's caretaker. You want to be a son; you want to be a daughter during these times for your parents," he said.
Time to be Family – Not Caregiver
Banner said that you want to help parents with meals, show them love, and not be a caregiver. Professional caregivers are trained to provide the care, and they give you the time to be family. You want someone else to change their clothes, their bedding, help with bathing, and other personal needs that come with needing long-term health care.
When thinking about the future changes in your health, body, and mind, you will want the same for your children when you need long-term health care. Longevity, even into your 90s and beyond, is a real possibility. With longevity means long-term care.
Banner said this is why Long-Term Care Insurance is so important. The policies provide the resources so you will have your choice of quality care, including in-home care.
Professional caregivers have a challenging job despite having the training to provide quality care. Family caregivers face the same challenges, but they also must deal with the emotional strain and anxiety of being a caregiver for a loved one.
Marc Glickman, FSA, CLTC, LTCP, is the President of BuddyIns, who partners with top insurance agents, advisors, and agencies across the country. An actuary by training, Glickman knows firsthand how caregiving can be difficult on families.
Family Caregiving is a Strenuous Job
Glickman saw how his family had to handle the role of being a caregiver, with and without professional help and insurance.
"Caregivers deal with the physical reality of how do you take care of someone who's several hundred pounds. You know it's just backbreaking,"
Glickman told Banner that on his website they honor the 44 million unpaid family caregivers that must step into the role of being a caregiver for their parents because of the difficulties of the job. However, he adds professional caregivers face similar hardships in their roles as well.
"My heart goes out to the paid caregivers who are professionals in this industry because they're doing a great service for all of us," Glickman said.
Numerous Long-Term Care Insurance Options are Available
Long-Term Care Insurance makes it easier to fund the quality care we will need at some point in our lifetime. Glickman says there are even more options today than in the past to plan for future long-term health care.
In addition to traditional Long-Term Care Insurance, asset-based or 'hybrid' policies are available that tie a life insurance policy or annuity with long-term care benefits. With a hybrid policy, there is some type of death benefit in addition to long-term care benefits. Plus, there are short-term policies available that have more relaxed underwriting criteria.
Long-Term Care Insurance brings policyholders benefits to pay for their choice of quality care, including in-home care.
Virus Crisis Accelerated In-Home Care Use
On the show Banner noted that due to the COVID-19 virus crisis, the use of nursing homes went down. Glickman agreed.
"I think what the pandemic did is it pushed forward a lot of things that were on the road to happening anyway," he said.
Glickman said technology was already allowing more people to stay at home when they needed care, and most people wanted to get away from a nursing home environment.
"That's not where people want to spend their remaining days or get care unless they absolutely had to," Glickman noted.
LTC Insurance Claims Often Start with In-Home Care
People were already choosing in-home care and assisted living over nursing homes. The result of the virus crisis increased this trend. Glickman said one major insurance company noted that 70% of their initial claims were for in-home care.
Professional home care providers had fewer issues with COVID-19 infection because they were very proactive early in using PPE and taking infection control seriously. Medicaid nursing homes with fewer staff had more problems that have been well documented.
Long-Term Care Insurance is affordable for many families, but Banner noted there are still some people who have problems affording a policy since much of their assets are tied to the value of their home.
Reverse Mortgages Getting a Second Look
"If you are 60 years old and above and you have the proper amount of equity, at least 50% equity, the odds are very good that you may qualify for a reverse mortgage," Banner explained.
Banner said to imagine not having to pay the principal or interest payment every month of your mortgage. That amount of available tax-free money that otherwise would go to pay the mortgage can then be used to fund Long-Term Care Insurance or other needs.
Glickman said consumers should seek a specialist to assist them in finding the right plan. He notes the variety of available plans, and their complexities, make it difficult for non-specialists to make the right recommendations.
Both pointed out the burdens family caregivers face when finding themselves thrust into the role of being a caregiver. Not only are family members untrained and unprepared, but it also changes the relationship dynamic between the older parent and the adult child.
They both agree planning needs to happen before changes in your health make it more difficult or impossible to plan. Once you have a need for care, it is already too late.