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Don’t Put Long Term Care Planning on the Backburner

Laura called us in a panic because her husband, George, was in a nursing home, about to have his Medicare coverage terminated.  George had no long term care insurance and Laura was totally unprepared for how Medicaid works and how much she would have to spend down.  I explained that we could help her preserve more than what Medicaid said she could keep, but we needed to work quickly.  She was onboard and we rolled up our sleeves and got working on it.  Then George died.

 In Laura’s mind, the crisis for which she hired us had now subsided.  She could put long term care issues on the backburner.  She had other things to deal with, among them the psychological, emotional and financial toll of the loss of her longtime spouse and what changes to her lifestyle that would cause.  I can certainly understand her thinking, but that is absolutely the wrong response.

 You see, when a married couple becomes our client in what  we call “crisis mode”, the family is focused on one problem only.  In Laura’s case it is how to afford George’s long term care without losing everything.  While that is my primary focus too, I am also looking at the care needs of the healthy spouse, Laura.  How can we best protect Laura so that, down the road, she doesn’t find herself in the same situation as George.

 Laura is healthy.  Now is the time to take action so that if and when she is faced with the spector of long term car – and that might be 3, 5 or 10 years from now – we won’t be trying to put out fires, so to speak.  We will have a plan in place and the ability to tap into all available sources of payment.  That will make it so much easier for Laura’s children to manage their mom’s care without worries that she will run out of money and it will decrease the chance that Laura will need to enter a nursing home.

 This is critical to Laura, but also to her children.  While Laura devoted the last several years to caring for George, it won’t be so easy for her children to do the same for her.  While they want to be there for their mom, they have young children and careers too.  They can’t simply drop everything on a moment’s notice. 

 When I explained this to Laura she understood.  It took her a little time to adjust to the loss of her life companion, George but we also didn’t need to work quite as quickly.  Over the next several months we put the pieces of a plan in place.  Laura and her family have the peace of mind of knowing that they’ll be much better prepared if a long term care crisis hits a second time.