Naming – and Long Term Care Planning

Posted by on May 9, 2015 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Naming – and Long Term Care Planning

Conventional wisdom says that many people avoid executing a will because doing so is an admission that they are going to die. The same thinking is said to make some people reluctant to purchase life insurance.

That may be true. People may put off taking the action, because it’s difficult for them to imagine a world that doesn’t include them!

However, I think there’s something else going on. It may be even harder for people to grapple with than writing a will or buying an insurance policy.

I’m going to call it ‘the problem with naming.’

Here’s what I mean. A will isn’t just a legal document about the disposition of assets – it requires that the person actually think about and NAME who will get things.

A life insurance policy isn’t just a way to create a lump sum of money upon death – in most cases; the person purchasing the policy has to NAME the beneficiary.

So, we could say that – behind these sterile legal and financial instruments are living, breathing people. They are NAMED in them, and will benefit from them.

I think coming to terms with exactly who we are willing to name – or not willing to name – can be very difficult. In some cases, even more difficult than acknowledging the fact that we are, indeed, mortal.

Have you ever completed a health care proxy or a living will? As you know, these legal documents ask you to NAME someone your health care decision maker. They will speak for you if you cannot. Unlike a typical will or a life insurance beneficiary designation, being NAMED someone’s health care proxy doesn’t carry any apparent upside or benefits. Instead, the proxy may be called upon to make health care decisions that could prolong or shorten the person’s life, and impact the quality of their life. It’s serious stuff, which is why people don’t make the decision lightly.

All of the documents mentioned above aim to ease the burdens that come from death or a decline in health. By NAMING who will make decisions, and who will inherit assets, people who plan ahead in this way can lessen the burden on those they love.

Isn’t it interesting that there is no such corollary document for long term care planning? Imagine that, instead of a health care proxy, we each needed to complete a form called a ‘long term care planning document’? It would ask us to complete how we were planning on paying for care, where we planned to live when we needed care, and, should inadequate funding be in place, to NAME who would be our full-time caregiver. Of course, we would also need to NAME an alternate full-time caregiver should the first one be incapacitated or unwilling to serve.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Those people who choose not to do long term care planning by purchasing a long term care insurance policy or other funding instrument DO, in fact, have a long term care plan. Unfunded care plans, upon examination, usually involves unpaid care by a relative.

By asking people to articulate their plan, specifically NAMING who they are planning will be their primary caregiver; we may be doing both the non-planner and the now-named relative a big favor. By finally putting words and NAMES to the unfunded plan, the person may look more realistically at the topic in advance of their care need, while they are still able to pre-plan.

Down to Earth

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Down to Earth

The kick-off keynote speaker at a recent long term care insurer convention was Captain Mark Kelly. Kelly, a NASA astronaut, is perhaps best known for being the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is slowly recovering from a gunshot wound to her head. It was inflicted during a ‘meet the constituents’ event at a supermarket in her district, in January 2011.

The convention was The Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference, held in late March in Colorado Springs. Kelly spoke frankly of his career, and also frankly of the real challenges a couple faces when one of them needs long term care.

While expressing his gratefulness for the professional caregivers who attend to his wife, he expressed frustration regarding their intrusion into the couple’s private life. Little things one wouldn’t normally consider make a big difference. In the morning – he explained – he needs to get ready in a different bathroom than Gabby and her caregiver. He needs to bring his clothes to another room to get dressed for work. Even while expressing gratitude for the care, he described how the life that they had as a couple before the accident was very different than the life they need now.

He described how difficult it was for him to make the decision to return not only to work, but to space. Thinking of his wife and family and he wondered whether to return to one of the most dangerous jobs on earth. His wife had always encouraged him in his career, and so he decided that it was important for him to return. When, during audience Q&A, he was asked what he hopes his legacy will be, he thought for a moment, and then replied that he wanted to be remembered as being a good husband.

One might wonder how the couple pays for the extensive long term care Giffords receives? Captain Kelly explained that, since Gabby was injured on the job, she receives her long term care through workers’ compensation. One can’t help but wonder how their lives and finances would be different if her injuries had been the result of a stroke (Kelly explained that her left side remains paralyzed), or an accident not tied to work.

Most of us do plan for retirement, when we are able to stop working and live off what we have put aside. However, most people stop there, not considering how to fund the possible long term care need that often arrives in our 80s or even 90s…but, like Giffords, disability can rear it’s difficult head at any age, from a variety of causes.

If living with a long term care need is difficult for an astronaut and a Congresswoman, with the benefit of funding, imagine how difficult it could be for ourselves or a family member, without benefit of funding. Peace of mind – knowing that we can take care of ourselves and our family – is a hard thing on which to put a price tag. However, for many of us, the price of peace of mind is as low as a long term care insurance premium. After all, we’ve taken care of virtually every other risk, haven’t we?

CBS Reports: Is Long-Term Care Insurance Right For Your Family?

Posted by on Mar 10, 2015 in Newsletter | 0 comments

CBS Reports: Is Long-Term Care Insurance Right For Your Family?

“Less than 8 percent of Americans have long-term care insurance policies. What most people don’t know is that their private insurance and even government programs, like Medicare, don’t pick up the tab for long-term care, whether it’s for a chronic condition like dementia, or for someone who can no longer care for themselves.” These two sentences are from a recent article by award-winning journalist, TV anchor and radio host Esme Murphy. Reporting from WCCO-TV (CBS – Minnesota), Murphy’s article, Is Long-Term Care Insurance Right For Your Family?, paints a picture of what many families face when long term care is needed.

Why aren’t the newspapers, magazines, and online journalists reporting on this important topic?

We all know the media truism “If it bleeds, it leads.” Put another way, bad news trumps good news the vast majority of the time. So, it’s no surprise that if there’s a negative angle about any topic (whether it be weather, celebrities, or long term care insurance), it’s that point of view that’s likely to dominate the media.

Another media truism according to the experts is this: visual stories – those that can be accompanied by an interesting photo that will grab readers’ interest – prevail. This preference for color visuals is a problem for the topic of insurance in general; it’s hard to show a photograph of an intangible product. The visual depictions that do come to mind are photos of people who need assistance with activities of daily living or are cognitively impaired. Not the kinds of photos that grab readers or viewers attention and appreciation.

The last truism is that today, attention spans are shorter. Complex topics, full of variables and nuance, are rarely covered in mainstream media. Long term care planning and the role of long term care insurance is exactly one of those topics. Consider this fact in conjunction with the truisms above, and it’s a miracle when a reporter gives this topic a try.

So, we were heartened to read so much good information in the short piece by Murphy. In the article we meet Kay Anderson, recounting how she is struggling to pay the long term care bills of her now-deceased mother. Bills she was surprised to find were not covered by Medicare. “It hits you like a brick that, first of all, you have come up with $6,000 dollars up front,” she said. Anderson, age 56 and single, says “I am exploring the options of long-term care insurance, because I don’t see any other way for myself to be taken care of,” she said.

The best advice offered in the article? Delaying planning for care can be a costly mistake. That advice may not ‘bleed,’ it’s not a compelling visual, and planning does require attention. However, as millions of families whose loved ones did not plan for long term care can attest, long term care planning today might be the smartest move you could make.

The article can be found at this link: