A few months ago I wrote about my family’s journey with dementia. I have been overwhelmed with your response. Many clients sent me personal messages wishing me the best through this time. Others have shared their own stories with me. Here are a few things that I have learned through this process of sharing my story.
First, thank you so very much. Thank you for reaching out to share your thoughts, prayers and grace. I have learned that helping parents as they age is one of the common experiences in life. So many others have dealt with the same things, and if you haven’t yet, you probably will. I initially felt alone in this process but now know that hardly anyone escapes these challenges with their loved ones. In the past, parents would often live with children as they aged. But in today’s society, aging parents want to maintain independence. Today’s seniors have driven the building of a whole industry of senior living and retirement communities. The challenges of the aging process have partially shifted from children to assisted living facilities. This just presents a different set of challenges for the family.
The second thing I have learned from hearing all of your stories is that the parents need to take responsibility to drive the planning conversation. Whatever the age, children will follow the lead of the parents. Often, children will typically step in when things start going poorly. But at that point, the decisions can become reactions instead of proactive responses. Getting plans in place now and making your wishes known to your children is YOUR responsibility. Please do it.
The third item that I have learned is the universal concern of paying for care. The costs associated with assisted living can be sobering. A recent statistic said 75% of those alive today will need long term care. This alone may be the impetus for financial planning. Due to the high costs of care and higher than expected claims experience, the long term care insurance industry has largely gone away. However, the insurance industry has come up with some very compelling new strategies that offer long term care coverage coupled with a life insurance policy or an annuity. If you would like to explore these options, please let us know.
Lastly, I’ve learned to accept and appreciate the process. As my mother progresses through dementia, she has lost a lot of her cognitive ability, but she has also become more joyful. Some people say that those who suffer from dementia get younger and younger in spirit. In many ways, my mom smiles and laughs like my 3 year old daughter! If I kiss her hand, she smiles and giggles. In many ways, mom is a young girl again. I get the privilege of knowing her in a way I’ve never experienced. What a blessing!