How We Spent Our Summer Vacation — A Summer of Long-Term Care Fun!

On June 6th I got a call from my wife, Susan, who many of you know.  Two days before, she had left for her annual “trek”, with her hiking buddy Gail, this year to Alaska. Nothing technical here, just trails in the glorious wilderness of our 49th State.  Early on the 5th all was well after landing in Anchorage.   However the “warm-up hike” in anticipation of more rigorous efforts later on, went badly and Susan was resting comfortably in Alaska’s primary trauma center.  You see, my normally sure-footed spouse had a “lapse” of concentration, tripped, went airborne and landed on a rock, breaking her right femur in four places.  So began our long-term care summer of fun!

While I won’t share all the gory details with you, immediately after the accident Susan enjoyed two hours in cold conditions before rescue, a helicopter ride to the hospital, five hours of surgery, four days occupational and physical therapy so she could use a wheelchair and walker, and an amazingly arduous journey to Burbank airport.  From there Gail drove her to Ventura and I retrieved her at a 7-Eleven, where I got to see my normally fit and fabulous spouse dragging herself around with a walker.  Now the fun really began!

Here’s a short list of things we don’t think about until caring for someone who can’t walk without assistance:

  • How difficult it is for them to get in and out of an automobile;
  • How painful it is for someone in this condition to ride for any distance in an automobile;
  • How most homes built even in the last 15 years are totally non-ACA compliant regarding thresholds, shower entries, door width, and grab bars;
  • How everything in the house needs to be moved out of the way for someone in a wheelchair/walker to get around;
  • How much time it takes to get someone in this condition dressed, to and from the doctor and physical therapy appointments;
  • How much time it takes to get a handicapped placard at the DMV for your automobile;
  • How upset your dogs get when Mom can’t take them on their walks (twice a day no less);
  • What a life changer being disabled is, even temporarily!

The good news is, Susan is on the mend.  Seven weeks after this life-threatening injury, she’s moving around the house smartly on one crutch and hopes to be driving in a few weeks.  Also, I may have discovered a new diet plan.  As a result of my caregiving activities and the twice daily dog walks, I’ve lost 10 pounds without even trying. Not sure I’d recommend this for anyone else though.

Which leads me to a July 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report from the Office of Disability, Aging & Long-Term Care.  The take-away is as follows (please note LTSS = LTC):

Most Americans underestimate the risk of developing a disability and needing long-term services and supports (LTSS). Using microsimulation modeling, we estimate that about half (52%) of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require LTSS, although most will need assistance for less than two years. About one in seven adults, however, will have a disability for more than five years. On average, an American turning 65 today will incur $138,000 in future LTSS costs, which could be financed by setting aside $70,000 today. Families will pay about half of the costs themselves out-of-pocket, with the rest covered by public programs and private insurance. While most people with LTSS needs will spend relatively little on their care, about one in six (17%) will spend at least $100,000 out-of-pocket for future LTSS.

CLICK HERE to download this HHS Issue Brief

Clearly not all disabilities qualify as a long-term care claim.  However, they can happen to the healthiest and fittest amongst us and in the most unlikely ways.  As we grow older, the probability and severity of disabilities often morph into chronic illnesses including memory loss and dementia.  The HHS report indicates a seemingly modest average cost of long-term care, but the fact remains that most Americans do not have this much set aside for retirement and other emergencies. Therefore any liquidity that an individual can set aside for a probable short or long-term care event is essential.

With this in mind, Susan and I implore you to redouble your efforts to discuss long-term care risk management with your prospects and clients.  You see, the downside to living a long life is that you’re likely to need long-term care.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and please watch your step!

  • arlene michelman
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    wow!!!what an ordeal. I know the story. have seen it many times. years ago I purchased LTC for myself and LTC paid up for my kids and their spouses———-this was actually a gift to the grandchildren who will someday realize how much I love them and was thinking ahead.

    sorry to hear about Susan’s accident. hope she is on the mend and will be up and around and back doing what she normally does very soon. say “hi” for me and send her my best wishes.


  • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Please Send Susan my Best…..

    A speedy recovery.

    Enjoy the summer.

  • Jack Bradley
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Hi Barry, I am happy to hear that Susan is doing well after her “adventure” in Alaska this summer. I would guess this will be her last trip of this type, following her experience. It doesn’t take more than one of these events to change our thinking about risk in making decisions going forward. I like cruise ships & golf at this point in my life. :)
    Other than condolences, I want to comment on the report from HHS on LTC costs. This could contain some valuable sales & marketing information, but it is buried in the usual government bureaucracy academic language and complex data tables. I have a degree in Mathematics, and I gave up trying to interpret the tables after the first 3 pages.
    If this is available in a summary extract or if one of the LTC firms takes the time to summarize the conclusions, it might help people better evaluate their risk and understand the cost impact. Just a suggestion…… Best wishes, Jack Bradley

  • Barry J. Fisher
    Posted July 30, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I’ll pass your comments onto Susan; I wouldn’t be that she won’t be back on the trail as soon as possible. Like falling off a horse! I agree on the report. There are some nuggets and I think the excerpt captures it all. Thanks.

  • Posted July 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Please thank Susan for sacrificing so much to help your marketing efforts! Wishing you both the best. Looking forward to seeing both of you at the next conference.

  • Joe Navarro
    Posted July 31, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    That is not good news.

    Sending a big hug your way for Susan.


  • Barry J. Fisher
    Posted August 2, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    How about sooner?

  • Barry J. Fisher
    Posted August 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    All’s well. I’ve passed on your thoughts.

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