It’s circa 2007. I’m 47. I’ve completed one major round of renovations on the house. I’m awaiting the final payout of my parents’ estate to put in wood floors.
(I had the top layer of the old subfloor stripped out, because when we removed the ancient carpet we found particle board — which was still outgassing from its 1985 installation! A new outdoor-grade layer of plywood took its place; outdoor-grade plywood has less health-harming volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). I lived on plywood floors from 2005 until I finished the floors in late 2008. Two weeks after the floors were finished I moved into a Tucson rental, intent on getting a social life. By the time I moved back to my house I was broke and on the edge of foreclosure. That is why I never unpacked, moved my furniture out of storage or settled — “nested.” That’s part of why despite owning a great home, I have not had a sense of “home” since 2003 before I moved to Arizona.)
I had a lawyer draw up my first will when I bought the house in 2005. Before my parents died I owned no assets of significance. Now I had investments, a fully paid-for car, antique furniture of some value and a house with three acres. So I had been in the mode of thinking about planning for the future.
I took stalk of the realities: 1). I am single and have no family on whom I can count to care for me in case of emergency, illness or old age. 2) Since 1990 I have had steadily deteriorating health problems that have eroded my ability to do the work I used to do. 3) I have money now, but I can’t count on having an earned income forever (although I was usually in denial of this, since I loved working and had trouble imagining me outside the workforce forever.)
So, is there anything I can do now to make sure I am properly taken care of when I get old, even if I develop the Alzheimer’s my grandmother had or the dementia her son/my father had?
Enter LTCI: Long Term Care Insurance.
I usually use just first initials in this blog, but Sandra Wolf did such a great job educating me and guiding me through the process of applying for LTCI that I want to acknowledge her here. (She retired recently.)
I revealed to her my existing conditions. She chose providers she had seen provide coverage for similar pre-existing conditions. I got approved.
The result was an insurance policy that ensured that I would receive home care if I ever developed cancer. And, most importantly to me, most of the fees for a high-quality continuing care retirement care community would be paid. The sale of my home would cover the up-front entrance costs. In these communities you can first move into a house or town home and live completely independently. If and when you start needing care, you can move into a supported living facility. And as life takes its course, the community has a nursing home and hospice services.
I could rest assured that even if I stayed single and estranged from my family, that I would be taken care of. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was.
For a while. The monthly LTCI premium was one of the first costs to get cut when my money started running out.
Here’s another sign of which class you belong to: Members of the 1% and other higher echelons of wealth and income are confident they will receive whatever care they need as they age. It’s not a worry. “Lower” class folks have that confidence only if it involves family; they can not count on financial resources being available.
Middle and upper middle class Americans used to be able to believe they’ll be fine when they get old, except maybe if they get really sick, or…___(fill in the blank with your greatest health-related fear)___. That’s changing.
My greatest fear is being old, sick and alone. Because of the financial mistakes I made (together with the stock market), that is now the most likely scenario. (I can hear the optimists objecting. Sure, it might all be fine. But on this matter I am a realist.)