Welcome to the sandwich generation — taking care of kids and elders all at once. That was the message that I got loud and clear this week at 37 weeks pregnant and with a father in the hospital who has, sadly, accepted that he needs to begin using his long-term care policy to receive in-home living support.
The challenges of being 37 weeks pregnant are largely understood, but what about managing the care for a father with a terminal illness who has been to the hospital with repeat episodes of source-unidentifiable delirium within the past 2 months?
Of everything, I was grateful that my father purchased a long-term care policy. Given his state, he would be best cared for at home with 24/7 help, if possible. Financially, this would ruin my parents without a LTC policy. But I didn’t know what our policy actually covered — and neither did my mother, since my father keeps household finances fairly secretive (which is just about the most ridiculous thing ever.)
So, given our rush to figure out how to best care for my father upon release from the hospital in next week or two, I’ve pushed my mother to review the LTC policy. The only problem was, she didn’t know what company the LTC policy was hosted at or how to access it. My father, not-so-helpfully, in a momentary lucid state, told her that it’s in his desk somewhere. She looked in his desk and couldn’t find anything about a policy–so she called his old employer, who he bought the policy through–who saw that the policy existed but then when they called the place it was listed to be hosted they were forward to another agency which had no record of said policy.
On a mission, I asked my mother for access to their bank account. I figured a LTC policy would be paid for monthly, quarterly or annually and perhaps I could find a check to the company so at least we’d know where it lived.
After sorting through the checking account and hearing confirmation from my father (through my mother) that he paid this policy on a quarterly basis and it was a few hundred dollars, I came to a shocking and horrifying realization — while there were payments on a quarterly basis to MetLife in 2017 and very early 2018, the last payment was made at the end of January. I hoped for the best (maybe I was missing a lump sum payment for the year) but I went into panic mode.
Then I read this article: The Policy Lapsed and No One Knew. And then I REALLY panicked.
Luckily, my mother, at about the same exact time as I finished reading the article, messaged me about a letter she received in the mail from MetLife — that the plan would be terminated if payment was not received by 7/27. That’s ONE WEEK FROM THAT DATE. It was due in May.
While we dodged a major bullet there, it was a stark reminder of how easy it is for good financial planning to turn into a destructive mistake. LTC insurance companies expect elders to forget to pay their bills and to terminate coverage by accident over the years. The LTC policies still are suffering and unable to make money because people are living longer and most do not forget to pay their bills. BUT, for my family, this situation, especially in the week my father needs care most, was almost a massive disaster.
I understand insurance companies send letters and need to terminate policies that aren’t paid for, but it seems given the nature of LTC policies for elders, there should be some safety net around older people who develop dementia or just natural old-age confusion and forget to pay bills, given the nature of the payment plan seems somewhat predatory to sell to a younger person and fail to mention to them that as they get older they might forget to pay their bills and this is built into the actuarial risk tables for how the policies can make money. In short, it’s messed up.
Thank goodness we identified the policy termination date and my mother is now going to overnight payment and hopefully we will be back on track and have LTC for my father. I can’t even imagine how we could face informing him that his LTC coverage lapsed, just as he sadly was open to using it due to his deteriorating health.
I’m overall trying to get more involved with my parent’s finances to help but it’s hard since he refuses to give my mother access to all the accounts. She also was very hesitant to give me the PW to her checking account and I keep telling her–look, I’m not going to take your money. I just want to help you. And it’s true. Thankfully she gave me the pw so I was able to identify the recurring payments that stopped in January. She did find the bill (that was lost amongst a bunch of other mail and would not have not been found if I hadn’t pressed her to immediately find any mail from the LTC insurance since we need to understand the policy and what it covers immediately.)
We still don’t know what it covers because although we were able to contact MetLife they are unable to tell my mother anything since it’s all private information and my father would have to agree to her hearing this. Isn’t that helpful in the situation where the policy holder may have dementia or be otherwise mentally incapacitated to make their own medical decisions and in need of long-term care, yet you can’t access any information about the LTC policy. Lovely.
But my dad is somewhat lucid and I’m hopeful we can call on Monday with him to get information. He has been for years avoiding thinking about his end-of-life planning, which I totally understand (who wants to think about that) but it really is hurting us now. At least he has a LTC policy (that almost lapsed!) but now we just have to find out what it covers and how to use it. Baby steps.
Literally baby steps, because I’m 38 weeks pregnant now and my first child will be here any day.