Wednesday, May 27, 2009

He's Your Dad, Too

There is a very interesting commercial produced by Liberty Mutual as part of their It shows a man and a woman driving through empty city streets in the pouring rain. They stop in front of a diner and see an elderly man dancing in the rain---no umbrella. The woman, obviously distressed, comments that Dad can’t live on his own anymore. The man turns to her and says, “What are you going to do.” She responds with some asperity that this is his Dad too. “You’re part of this family.”

What struck me right off? The woman is driving and looks very worried. The man is sitting on the passenger side---kind of slumped down---almost sullen. Right away you get that the woman has two problems: the parent who has dementia and a sibling who is signaling in multiple ways that this is no concern of his.

The day I saw this commercial, I had done a consult with a family whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease. Now in her early eighties, she is in an assisted living facility. She has enough money to cover the costs for the next 2+ years. Her children blithely assured me that once she had spent down her assets, government aid would pay for her nursing home care (Medicare and Medicaid).

My questions to them were: How can you be so sure? What’s plan B?

If they’re reading the same newspapers I am, it is conceivable that the increasing needs of the aging population and the economic recession are producing a perfect storm. Will federal and state budget deficits allow government to continue to be in the nursing home business? If not, what happens to people like my client’s mother?

If there is a chance that this family will have to share the cost of private pay for their mother’s care in a couple of years, it might be a good idea to confront that possibility now.

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