When there’s no cure, long-term care becomes critical | Insightful Investing

By Jeffrey Moormeier | Sep 06, 2017

Welcome to my third column on the complicated topic of health care insurance, which, if you’re not careful, could land you in the poorhouse. Last month, I wrote about how having the right supplemental Medicare insurance policy is critical to health care planning.

This month, we’re going to talk about long-term care. For example, what happens when modern medicine has no cure for a disease, such as Alzheimer’s?

What you are about to read is a conversation I had with Marylou Dantonio, who lives along Mukilteo Boulevard just outside Mukilteo. After four years of medical testing and a painstaking process, her husband was placed in a long-term care facility at $10,000 per month.

Marylou agreed to share her story because she wants you, the reader, to consider a scenario that could possibly happen to you. And as a financial advisor, my question for the reader is: are you prepared for this potential outcome?

Jeff: “Marylou, thank you for being vulnerable and authentic enough to share your story with me. What would you like to tell our readers?”

Marylou: “Looking back, I noticed the early stages of Alzheimer’s in my husband years before medical professionals diagnosed his disease.

“After a lifetime of saving his money and being frugal, he began spending money like there was no end to it. He paid somebody $5,000 to pick rocks out of the garden.

“What I really want to say is that I had a miserable experience with medical professionals. I got the run around until I hired a medical director.”

Jeff: “What is a medical director?”

Marylou: “After three years of caring for my husband on my own and being frustrated with how he and I were treated by the medical community, I hired a medical director to act as an advocate.

“My medical director was a physician assistant who would come to our home once a month and check on my husband, as well as accompany me to the doctor’s office. He helped me interact with the medical staff and doctors to get the proper tests for non-related Alzheimer’s issues.

“Once the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was made, the medical advice I received was “care not cure.” Yet I was experiencing no care, whatsoever. I might add that once an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is made, insurance generally only covers medical procedures, not care. That’s where personal expenses come in.”

Jeff: “Why is that?”

Marylou: “It is because there is no cure and no progress can be made. Alzheimer’s is a progressive decline of life that needs constant supervision. And because there is no cure, there is nothing for the medical community to do.

“Leading up to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, medical services are generally covered. My medical director was not, nor was the care he needs. Supervision is not covered by insurance.

“The real personal costs begin after diagnosis. There is virtually no coverage for managing the decline of an Alzheimer’s patient.”

Jeff: “My father died from something very similar, and my mother was his primary caregiver until the last three months or so. What was your experience like?”

Marylou: “I am writing a book on the subject, which goes beyond your column here. Let me put it this way: I was the only person in my husband’s world. I tried having in home care, which was a disaster for my situation.

“It came to a point where I was beginning to lose my own sense of self. I didn’t know it at the time, but my husband was slowly disappearing before my eyes. We would have conversations about our lives, and he remembered things much differently than I did. I began to question my own sanity, so to speak.

“It is obvious now what was happening, but at the time it was extremely hard. I became more and more isolated as my friends slowly drifted away. It is a very difficult experience, both as a spouse and as an outsider looking in. My friends couldn’t handle it.”

Jeff: “Your husband is now in a 24-hour care facility. How did you come to the conclusion to place him there?”

Marylou: “I had already decided that if he could not recognize me or if I had to help him with his natural bodily functions, I would find a facility. My medical director helped with this, and it has been the best thing for both of us.

“The whole process wore me out. I came to the point that my own survival was at stake. And if something had happened to me, my husband would have been in real trouble.

“At first I tried to conserve as much money as possible, but I eventually realized that he had saved his whole life and this money was there for him. It costs $10,000 a month. We never really planned for that, except that he saved our money his whole life.”

Jeff: “Would you do anything differently?”

Marylou: “I would have bought some long-term care insurance, and I would have had a conversation about the ‘Oregon Solution’ – physician-assisted suicide.”

Jeff: “Marylou, thank you so much for sharing your story. I wish you all the best.”

 

Jeffrey Moormeier of JG Moormeier Financial is a Mukilteo-based financial advisor affiliated with KMS Financial Services, an SEC registered investment adviser. His column does not represent the opinions of KMS Financial Services, nor is it an official prediction or recommendation of any kind. The opinions expressed in this column are generalizations. For advise catered to your specific financial circumstances, contact Jeff directly at jeff@jgmoormeier.com or 425-931-8898.

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