My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago. While the progression had been slow, the last few months have witnessed a rapid, disconcerting acceleration of the disease. Experiencing this with my mother has been a deeply emotional journey in more ways than one. Among other things, Alzheimer’s has robbed her of memories and independence. It’s turned family members into strangers, changed the familiar to foreign, and replaced feelings of security with perpetual fear. Needless to say, this experience has been extremely sad and frequently brings me to tears.
Countless families experience something sadly similar. Maybe my story, and the lessons my family has learned, can help someone else prepare a little better, even if they think they’ve done a good job protecting themselves and their loved ones against the cruelties that life can throw at us.
In addition to the immense physical and emotional impact of Alzheimer’s, there is a financial toll as well. Full time memory care is expensive, with the cost ranging to $13,000 per month. Applying for state resources is an arduous and relentless process– especially in the absence of Power of Attorney.
Applicants are mandated to produce all financial records from the previous five years. Moreover, simply providing copies of financial statements does not suffice. What was the $500 withdrawal used for in 2016? Where are the receipts for the items that were purchased with that money? In my view, most people can’t remember or prove how they spent $500 four years ago – I know I could not.
There are lawyers and consultants who specialize in Elder Care Law and can assist when applying for state resources. My experience suggests that the lawyers’ fees begin at $300 per hour, while the consultants will offer to consult for a flat fee of $5,000, if not more. While the Elder Care consultants were knowledgeable, my interactions with them were nothing more than a business transaction – receive advice and pay a fee. No effort was made to provide me with reassurance or peace of mind.
Contrast that with my call explaining the situation to my mother’s National Life agent, Megan Hand.
My mother bought her National Life annuity in November 2008. At the time, a lot of uncertainty was prevailing in the financial markets and the country at large. Before buying the annuity, her primary questions were: Is my money safe with National Life? Will it be there when I need it? – not unreasonable questions considering that business bankruptcies were up 49% from 20071 and the stock market finished the year plummeting by approximately 37%. Certainly, she had worked hard over her career to save money for her annuity. It was never intended to be used for medical expenses. She planned on traveling to warm places and spending time with her friends during her retirement.
I called Megan several months ago to explain that my mother had been admitted to the hospital and was ill. Even though Megan was not the original writing agent, she was servicing the contract and graciously offered to help. Megan could have easily referred me to the toll-free phone line, client portal, or an anonymous customer service email address, but she chose not to do that. On the contrary, she helped with all our requests – including the distribution of the annuity to help pay for my mother’s medical care. She has been unwavering in her support, advocacy, responsiveness, and empathy.
National Life has a mission to keep its promises and a vision to bring peace of mind to everyone it touches. This experience has brought those words to life for me and my family.
While remaining positive through this experience has been an onerous task, some valuable lessons have indeed been learned:
- Time with your parents can be brief. Spend time with them. You won’t regret it.
- Children with elderly parents should consider obtaining Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives. Waiting until your parents are ill is too late.
- Promises do matter. National Life promised to keep my mother’s money safe and return it to her when she needed it. They kept their promise.
Recently, a friend stated that reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey, and at other times, it is allowing another to take yours. Therefore, I encourage you to choose your partner wisely when embarking on a financial journey. After all, you may rely on them one day.
1 The Year in Bankruptcy: 2008, Jones Day Publications, January 2009