In college I knew a young man who had everything going his way. He was handsome, talented and personable. He was a student body officer and dated only the prettiest girls.
He was on the college speech team with me. One weekend we had a competition but he was not able to go. (I know that it sounds a bit dorky for college kids to compete in fine arts. Believe it or not, it happens.)
When we left campus, he was healthy and happy. When we returned, we learned that he had been hiking in the mountains after dark. He had fallen over a cliff while he was protecting his hiking companion. He survived the fall but broke his back. The injury left him unable to move his legs.
A year later he returned to school in a wheel-chair. He was still handsome, talented and personable. The only thing was that, now that he was paralysed from the waist down, he could not function like he used to.
During my Sophomore year of college he played basketball. During my senior year, he had to sit on the sidelines and watch others run up and down the court.
I grew up with a father with Hungtington’s disease. It had been hard to witness my father lose control over his body but, as a kid, I knew that was a fate that would happen to all “old” people. It was scary to learn that someone my age could also lose the ability to function normally. After caring for dad for many years, mom went into a deep depression.
I guess my insurance education actually began back then. I was forced to realize that continued health is not guaranteed to any of us. When it is taken from us, we still need to be able to provide for our loved ones.
Of us 4 kids, the oldest was married and out of the house before dad started showing any symptoms of Huntington’s. The first sign that there was anything wrong with dad was small personality changes during my brother’s senior year of high school. Although dad had started seeing a psychologist, my brother had already left for college before dad was officially diagnosed with the same disease that had take his mother. Neither my oldest brother or sister had to experience the torture that comes with providing Long Term Care to a person with Huntington’s.
My youngest sister is 5 years older than I. S she was in the house long enough to witness the start of the physical symptoms of Huntington’s. Eventually, she got married and started a family of her own. I know better, now, but at the time I felt that she had abandoned me.
By the time I graduated from high school and was ready to leave for college, dad had regressed to the same emotional level as a typical 8 year old, had lost his since of hearing and was not able to control his arms and legs.
Mom has always had a touch of hypochondria but the depression. Depression is still a common complaint for family members who act as Long Term Caregivers. We did not know that back then. We thought it was just mom seeking attention.
At that time, the doctors thought the answer to every problem in life could be found in pills. By the time I left home, the medicine cabinet looked like a pharmacy. Mom and dad were not yet 50 but there were more than 20 pill bottles.
Fortunately, at least for me, dad’s employer was willing to work with him. For years, dad had operated machinery at a factory. With his inability to control his muscles, it was no longer safe for him. Rather than fire him, however, his employer kept his wages where they were and gave him a broom. Mom and dad were not able to help me pay for college but as long as I lived with them, they always found a way to keep me clothed, fed and sheltered.
A few months after I left home, dad had to “retire” for disability reasons. It was no longer safe for him, or his co-workers, for dad to be in close proximity to machinery. Fortunately they no longer had to feed and clothe 4 children before dad’s income was cut and he was forced to accept a medical retirement.
Within a couple of years, dad qualified for Social Security Disability payments. Not only would he get a check, I would too until I was 21. (Social Security does not work that way anymore. Dependent children only get a check until they are 18.) As a result, Social Security paid for my sophomore and junior years of college.
At that time in my life, I had no idea that I would end up as an insurance agent. My goal was to help others navigate the trials of life through which I had come.
I guess, I use the training I got in college. I am just on the other side of the church pulpit. I still have to find a way to motivate people to ask, “What if…” The only difference is that instead of providing spiritual answers, I have to offer practical ones.
Most of the lessons that were taught in college have gone out of my mind. I sat through an entire semester of “Israel: Its Area and Culture.” Today, all I can remember learning in that class was that Ramses the Great was thought to be Pharoah at the time of the Exodus.
However, I do remember a lesson that I learned in the school’s business office . Sometimes, there is a silver lining behind tragedy. If a parent has disability insurance when they get sick, a child can still go to college.
Social Security no longer pays for a child’s college tuition. However, the strategy still exists in the private market. If you want that type of coverage, you have to have private Disability Income insurance.
I understand that 60% of those who need Long Term Care are over the age of 65. All that statistic tells me is that 40% of people who need Long Term Care are younger than 65.
Scott was only 20 when he fell off that mountain cliff. Dad was only 50 when he lost control of his body. Both of them needed help to function in life. At that time, they had no options. They were at the mercy of friends and family.
Long Term Care insurance did not exist back then, however, it does now. It cannot replace the love, affection and emotional support of friends and family. What it does is provide the money necessary to hire professional help with Activities of Daily Living.
If you have Long Term Care insurance when you get sick or injured, you are able to hire someone to help you function. That way, your friends and family are free to love and support you without resentment or depression. They are not required to be available to feed, bathe or move you from your bed to your chair. They do not have to watch you like a hawk to make sure you do not injure yourself or someone else. They can still feel like they are free to live their own lives.
In recent years, there has been much misinformation about Long Term Care insurance. I have heard everything from, “LTCI is never necessary” to “LTCI is way too expensive.”
As an insurance agent, my world is based on probabilities. I know that 70% of Americans are going to need help with the Activities of Daily Living for at least 90 days at some point in their life. I just do not know at what age.
I tend to use probabilities to recommend insurance. When a client asks me, “What insurance products do I need,” I need to take a look at their circumstances. Ideally, they will have both Disability and Long Term Care insurance. However, most of my clients have to choose one or the other.
If a client still has children who are financially dependent on them and they can only afford the premiums for one type of insurance, I recommend that they focus on Disability Income insurance. That way, if they get sick or injured, they are still able to feed, clothe and educate their kids.
My specialty, however, is with Baby Boomers. Many of them are “Empty-nesters.” When there are no longer any children who are financially depended on you, I recommend that you use the money that you were spending on Disability Income insurance to pay for Long Term Care insurance (LTCI).
That way, if you suffer an illness or injury that requires Long Term Care, your family has the money to hire help for you. They do not have to experience the resentment and depression my mother, and thousands of other care givers, have had to go through.