Long term care (LTC) planning is an extremely personal business. Our specialists help people protect what is most important to them. They assist people with maintaining their dignity and making sure their families aren’t burdened in a time of crisis. Cathy Flanagan is one of our most experienced consumer specialists and she’s been working with families for 20+ years. Her own family experienced an LTC event with her grandmother, Edith, and Cathy is forever grateful that Edith purchased an LTC policy and received benefits as her health deteriorated.
Edith was born in the early 1920s, lived through the depression era, and was very frugal. She had saved well, but never considered savings or assets to cover living expenses, only social security. When Cathy sold her grandmother a LTC policy in 1998, Edith complained about the cost of the premiums. Every year when the bill showed up in the mail, it would cause a point of contention in the family and Edith would say she didn’t think she needed it, she didn’t think she could afford it, and she would try to let it go. Cathy would then speak to her, discuss the benefits, and Edith would begrudgingly pay another year.
Then one day Edith fell in her driveway, broke her hip, and had to crawl back to the house to call for help. That was the moment Cathy’s mom, Theresa, realized how vulnerable her mother was living by herself. She invited Edith to live with her in a private section of their newly built house. Edith was still very healthy and independent and initially refused, but eventually agreed and decided it made sense to move in with her only child. This arrangement worked for quite a while, until Edith started falling more, and experiencing neuropathy, weakness and instability.
The LTC policy Edith purchased included benefits for caregivers, so the family hired a previous housekeeper, Vicenta, to come in 3-4 days a week and be a caregiver. Vicenta was liked and trusted by the entire family, she needed the extra income, and she could do things like drive Edith to doctor’s appointments, run errands, and transfer Edith in and out of the shower. Even with a part time caregiver, Theresa was still handling much of Edith’s care. She had no help on weekends and was no longer able to go visit Cathy, who lived two hours away. As Edith aged she developed dementia and had a sudden fear of dying alone, so Theresa stayed home to ease Edith’s fears.
Things kept getting worse; Edith accused Theresa of stealing money, Theresa was constantly stressed, and Vicenta was now helping out 5 days a week. Finally, Cathy had to talk to her mom about the decline of caregivers, how taking care of someone affects the entire family, and how bad all of this stress was for her. But Theresa had promised Edith she’d never put her in a facility. Edith thought it was her daughter’s job to take care of her – that’s what family does. Eventually Edith agreed to go to a facility, with the stipulation that Vicenta go with her.
“The family felt extremely blessed that they had an LTC policy that would cover all of this.”
Edith’s policy was a rich one, it not only allowed for payment to be made to the facility, if there was any leftover monthly benefit, it could be utilized to pay for an individual caretaker. So Vicenta visited Edith every day, usually from about 10 to 5. She did her laundry, walked her to dinner, helped her get around, and was her constant companion. The family felt extremely blessed that they had an LTC policy that would cover all of this. As Edith’s health declined she was moved to a skilled nursing facility, and again Vicenta followed. Toward the end of her life, still fearful of dying alone, Edith was surrounded by friends and family 24 hours a day, and when she passed her granddaughter Cathy was there.
Edith drew on her policy for three and a half years just shy of $400,000 in benefits. She did not even come close to spending in premium what she ended up getting paid out. Had she not had the policy, she would have expected Theresa to take care of her. And Theresa would have run herself into the ground making sure that her mother had the best care. Theresa was extremely thankful her daughter had sold her mother that policy so many years ago, because her life would have been exceedingly different without it. This is why we say LTC is a family benefit.
Today Cathy works with families all over the country, helping them plan for their future. She enjoys the education process and taking someone from thinking they can’t afford the product, to thinking they can’t afford not to have the product. Cathy says she knows in the long haul, they’re going to be impacted in some way and they’ll thank her one day, even if she never hears about it. She knows firsthand the value of the service, and she looks forward to helping many more families on their LTC journey.