LTC Bullet: LTC Planning Requires Emotion AND Thought

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hot Springs, Arkansas (LTC Tour: Mile 8705, State #10)--

LTC Comment: A PBS special "Caring for Your Parents" engaged the heart but not the mind. Analysis after the ***news.***

*** LTC TOUR UPDATE. After weeks of constant travel, speaking engagements, and computer problems, the LTC Tour has hunkered down in Hot Springs, AR for a few days to catch up with research, scheduling and fund-raising. We've posted our recent progress and described the main Tour events in LTC E-Alerts. So here are a few items to personalize the LTC Tour.

In Houston, hosted by Center for Long-Term Care Reform Regional Representative and LTCI specialist par excellence Honey Leveen, I gave several talks at The Forum, an outstanding Continuing Care Retirement Community. The Forum provided meeting rooms, a highly visible parking spot for the Silver Bullet and graciously offered me their comfortable guest quarters for two nights.

Here's a picture of The Forum's Director of Community Relations Kate Dowlen, Honey Leveen and myself beside the Silver Bullet

Here's a picture of Lillie Pontello (posted with permission), a charming and thoughtful resident of The Forum, who attended my presentations and took the Silver Bullet "tour."

Finally, check out this interview with Kate Dowlen and her Forum colleague Natalie Rogers, who describe The Forum and explain why their company hosted the "National Long-Term Care Consciousness Tour." ***

*** CHECK OUT OUR YOU-TUBE CHANNEL. Finally overcoming some technical challenges, we're posting much more content to the Center for Long-Term Care Reform's 2008 LTC Tour YouTube Channel. Check it out at Then scroll down for more videos. Check the channel often for the latest videos from the National Long-Term Care Consciousness Tour. ***

*** CHARMAINE GOLSAN, Center for Long-Term Care Reform Regional Representative for Baton Rouge, Louisiana graces the cover of Life Insurance Selling magazine this month with her assistant Tawny Roberts and long-time client Pat Ketelson. See the cover here: Check out editor Gordon Bess's excellent and moving article "A Lifetime of Caring" about Ms. Golsan and her LTCI practice in this month's issue. ***

*** GAIL LINDSEY, yet another Center Regional Rep, this time for Chattanooga, Tennesee, is in the news. Her website at cites links to five news stories she and assistant Jason Hilner made happen about the LTC Tour and the importance of responsible LTC planning and rational LTC public policy. ***



LTC Comment: "Caring for Your Parents," a Public Broadcasting System documentary, tracked five families coping with the challenge. It aired Wednesday, April 2, 2008. You can watch the program streamed, as I did last night, here:

In the week between the show's broadcast and when I viewed it online, numerous "LTC Bullets" readers contacted me with the same criticism: "Caring for Your Parents," they said, was accurate and heart wrenching in its depiction of the problem. But the show did nothing, zero, to suggest solutions. Many of the emotional and financial problems depicted so movingly in the program could have been mitigated if the families had planned ahead, our readers suggested. Specifically, if they'd had long-term care insurance, they could have afforded high-quality, professional, and loving assistance with the caregiving challenges.

Here's an example of such criticism from Center member and LTCI producer Barbara Hanson of California: "Another lost opportunity for sane planning! Lots of need and no realistic relief . . .what will it take to get the media awake?" Barbara's message cited several examples from her own clients whose LTC experiences were easier thanks to their LTCI coverage.

My initial reaction to such criticism of the show was dismissive. Why does every program have to focus on planning? Why can't we just watch and feel and empathize? Wouldn't such emotional immersion also make us start to think? Does every program about caregiving have to focus on money, planning and insurance?

Then I watched the show. I felt their pain. My eyes welled. I compared the problems described in the program with LTC challenges in my own family. I let the show wash over me emotionally.

About half way through, however, my brain kicked in. Wait a minute, I thought, there is plenty in this program about planning, or rather, the lack of planning. There is plenty in this program about financing, only it is government funding, not private funds. There are plenty of clues in this program about what causes people to end up in the emotional and financial distress the program so movingly describes.

For example, consider these notes I took while watching the show. They aren't direct quotes, just paraphrases:

Nurses provided by the state put in four hours per day.

Man put both parents in a nursing home--guess who paid.

Medicaid pays for some in-home care, and Thelma makes up the difference.

I can't visit my parents as much as I want because of the money.

In a nutshell, lack of private funds to purchase home and respite care account for the worst of the emotional and financial strain of caregiving. Medicaid ameliorates the strain slightly, but not enough. By the time the families in the show reached the climactic caregiving portrayed, it was too late for private insurance to help.

It is well-known that people most likely to buy long-term care insurance--and avoid some of the worst problems of LTC for their own families in the future--are people who have been through a difficult caregiving experience themselves.

Older boomers are going through such experiences with their own parents today. So the average age of purchase of private LTCI is declining toward the average age of the front cusp of the boomer generation.

If we wait 18 years for the boomer generation to run its course, maybe everyone will wake up to the need for responsible and early long-term care planning. But if we wait that long, a great many people will suffer needlessly.

So, when I apply my mind and not just my heart to "Caring for Your Parents," I come away with the same bottom line as our readers. This fine program was an opportunity lost.

For a much better treatment of the problem AND the solution, read nationally syndicated Chicago Sun Times financial columnist Terry Savage's article titled "Who'll look after you? The Savage Truth: If you're counting on long-term government aid for the elderly, think again." Published just two days before the PBS special aired, this article gives sound advice:

"If you can pay for your care, there will be many alternatives ranging from home care to assisted living to nursing homes that accept only privately paying patients. But typically this cost can devastate a family's retirement savings -- and leave a surviving spouse without any assets.

"The first step is to consider the purchase of long-term care insurance. It may be too expensive for everyone, but those who can afford at least some coverage will ensure that they do not spend their last years in an underfunded, overcrowded nursing home. . . .

"And what if you never use your policy? Congratulations. I hope you never need it -- or your homeowner's insurance in case of a fire. But the chances are 10 times as great after age 65 that you'll need some form of care than that your house will burn down.

"Insurance is always a bet against the odds. But you can't collect if you don't bet. And that's The Savage Truth."

The subject families in "Caring for Your Parents" didn't bet and they lost big.

(Thanks to Center member and LTCI veteran Murray Gordon for bringing this Terry Savage article to our attention.)