I met Dutiful again today – you know Dutiful? This is the daughter or son who shows up to dutifully care for the ageing parent(s). S/he has a full time job, teenage children and children in college, a house, volunteer commitments and parents who just a little too far away to be convenient to check in on them often.
This beautiful lady had a 93 year old Dad who was placed in a VA nursing home two weeks ago because he had a stroke and became a two-person lift. The VA nursing home is about a 45 minute drive from her house and she makes the drive three times a week to check on him — twice on work days and once on the weekend. She looked…well, tired, frankly. But she told me this was far better than what they had been doing trying to care for Dad in his own home and running to/from the hospital when he fell or had some other emergency.
“Dad,” she said to me, “owns a long term care insurance policy and we knew he had it. We just kept wanting to save it until he REALLY needed it. So we kept doing more and more of the things he needed until we woke up one day to the fact that we weren’t really caring for him well at all.” This is an old tale… Did you ever hear of the frog who was put in a pan on the stove and the heat slowly turned up on it? That frog will never jump out… no matter how hot it gets. The silly thing will die in there! But if you take a frog and dump it into very warm water, it will recognize the danger and jump out. We humans are the same way when it comes to care for our parents. Our first names are Dutiful, after all.
We start by calling and checking, then we start stopping by, then we do some shopping and light housekeeping, then sleepovers when they are ill then… all the while the heat is being turned up on our pot and we have trouble thinking that it is time to jump out!
I will tell you the moral that this Dutiful told me today: don’t wait so long to use your long term care insurance policy. Make a claim on the long term care insurance policy and use the benefits. You cannot know how long someone will live. If the weight of caring for someone is burning the joy from your life, it is time to trigger the policy and use the benefit to get yourself some very much needed rest. Dutiful ended our conversation with this…
“I am glad Dad has a policy. It means we won’t spend everything he has to pay for his care. I only wish we had used it sooner because I am not sure how much longer he will live now that he has had the stroke. We should have used it while he was still home – then our time together might have been laughing instead of doing chores…”
I like the last bit most… let’s spend our last few days and months together laughing and remembering, not doing chores.
Does this sound a little too familiar? Get the book and read it. It’s a valuable guide for the Dutiful Heir.