Communication is one of the most important factors in any significant relationship, right? And yet it is usually absent or at least faulty when it comes to sharing important information about health and finances. Sometimes the parents hide information from their children or the kids keep details from their parents. Or spouses feel the need to protect one another from the truth of their declining health.
In a recent issue of the newsletter published by the Society of Actuaries, I read an article written by my friend and colleague, Eileen Tell. Tell is an academic and a researcher. Her article is based on findings from research she conducted for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In the article, Tell summarizes observations from consumer focus groups conducted as part of that study, intended to better understand a family’s search process for long term care services. The findings of the study support the same experiences I observe among my own clients.
“A common theme heard in all the groups was the lack of awareness of the decline in either physical or cognitive health of their loved one until this acute episode occurred.” By shielding family members from important facts, most are caught by surprise when there is a sudden decline in their health.
In many cases, it takes a major event to trigger family involvement. A fall, sudden illness, a stroke, or the unexpected need for a new primary caregiver. Family members find themselves unprepared to manage the important decisions that require immediate answers.
Communication Has To Happen
George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” You may wish that it happened. You may even think you were clear. But until all parties have the details and understand the situation, there’s no way you can properly prepare.
The study groups reveal the same patterns I see with my clients:
- A lack of awareness of the decline in their loved one, until an acute episode occurred.
- Aging parents typically shield their adult children from the realities of their limitations.
- Where mom or dad ultimately winds up receiving care is very much a function of finances.
Sometimes, family members begin to address the sensitive subject of long term care, only to be met with silence, half-answers or a complete change of subject. Especially when it came to talking about paying for that care.
This type of denial is so widespread, that I’ve written many dozens of blogs about it.
I will never understand why people elect to re-act, rather than pro-act. I’ve seen many people who could have afforded long term care insurance (LTCi), but they refused to consider it. As if the very conversation was more taboo than their actual future without plans. LTCi can help cover a lot of future costs. Some often include care coordinators, too.
For my clients, LTCi is often transformative, a game-changer. This makes my career career hugely satisfying.
It’s rare to find families who are composed, level-headed and functional when long term care is needed. One thing should be obvious, though. When someone buys LTCi, they are stacking the deck in their favor that their future will unfold in a more dignified, graceful, considerate and affordable lifestyle.
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