Dear Abby often advises the topic of people who have not prepared for long-term care. Here’s a recent blog I did about this in September, 2011. In her February 25, 2012 column she describes the issue of elderly neighbors who are now sick and in need of long-term care, for which they have obviously failed to plan responsibly. They would have very likely found LTCi premiums to be very affordable if they had purchased it when they were healthy enough to qualify. Now they are paralyzed by fear and are dogmatically making unwise, unsafe decisions as a result.
Here’s the column:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have become fond of a delightful elderly couple, “Frank” and “Annie.” We bought the home across the street from them 10 years ago. They have four children, two of whom live nearby.
Two years ago, Frank was diagnosed with dementia. They are adamant about staying in the house they’ve owned since they were newlyweds. This means more of the burden of caring for the house and finances now falls to Annie, who has health problems of her own.
We help out whenever we can, because I know money is tight for them. When their lawnmower broke, we bought them a new one, and with the help of another neighbor, we take care of general yardwork and house issues.
I am growing increasingly concerned about the state of their finances, and bewildered that their children never seem to help. They interact with their parents at birthdays and on holidays. I don’t know the children well, but is there a way to help them understand that their parents may not be volunteering all their troubles?
Frank and Annie are proud of what they’ve accomplished, but now they need a little extra support. They never ask for help, but gratefully accept it if it’s offered. Would I be out of line to communicate with our neighbors’ family?
— LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
DEAR LOVE THY NEIGHBOR: Out of line? Not at all. The “children” should be told about your concerns, and also the various things you and the other neighbors have been doing to help their parents. Sometimes the children of aging parents don’t recognize the subtle changes that take place when a loved one has dementia. Bring it out in the open, and you’ll be doing all of them a favor.
Why didn’t Abby take this golden opportunity to recommend pruchase of long-term care insurance? Perhaps it’s same mysterious reason the majority of Americans avoid discussing responsible long-term care planning.
The vast majority of caregivers in the U.S. are unpaid family members like Annie, her children, or neighbors like these. If these neighbors were concerned enough to write to Abby, it’s clear to me that what little assistance these neighbors are providing is not enough. Frank and Annie could already be collecting from their long-term care insurance, if they owned it.