There’s No Place like Home

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I love the Christmas season. I love everything about it. The music. The parties. The food. The shiny tops I can get away with wearing. I even love the crowds and the thrill of the hunt for the perfect gift.

But there is also something about the season that makes me a little melancholy. Every decoration on our tree has a story attached to it, many are of loved ones gone and of times that have passed. I don’t think I have ever made it through a choir singing "Silent Night" at a Christmas Eve service without shedding a tear or two. And I especially get a little twinge of sadness when I take out our daughter’s stocking. My Mother-in-Law, Mary, had it knit for her First Christmas.

Years earlier, when Jerry and I had gotten engaged, Mary had had “Mr. and Mrs. Claus” stockings knit for us. Then, when our son was born, she was delighted to have a “Frosty” stocking knit for him. Therefore, it went without saying, that when her newest granddaughter was born that year, another stocking was not far behind.

Mary had an awesome sense of humour. When she laughed, you laughed. It was that simple. But she was also very soft hearted. So the night we opened the beautifully hand knit stocking and saw that she had spelled Reagan’s name wrong, we truly didn’t know if she was going to laugh or cry. Luckily, she laughed. We all did. In fact, we laughed so hard that we did cry!

Days before Reagan’s second birthday, Mary passed away. That Christmas, when we took out our family stockings, she asked, “Why is my name spelled wrong, Mama?” We told her the story and we’ve told it to her every year since. We still laugh at that memory. At age seven, Reagan is old enough to know that it will never be fixed and she understands the reasons why.

I have many wonderful memories like these of my Mother-in-Law. But, unfortunately, I also have some memories that are less than wonderful to recall. For years prior to her death, Mary had been ill. She had a rare blood condition that made it difficult for her to get around and, eventually, had left her bound to a bed. A woman who had proudly raised a family of five, loved to camp and rarely missed a night of Bingo, was no longer able to bath herself or get to the washroom without assistance. 

Like many who find themselves in her position, her one wish was to stay at home. Fortunately, with the love and support of her family and friends, that wish was granted. But it took a toll. My father-in-law, Ralph, was a very private and fiercely independent man. But when it became apparent that his wife needed around the clock care - care beyond that which even her family could provide - he had no choice but to open his home to home care workers and his finances to the system. I think the worst part about the whole ordeal was the sense of helplessness. As worker after worker came and went, there never was a sense of control. We never knew what would happen next and if we would be able to see her wish through to the end.

I’m so thankful that it doesn’t have to be this way today. Families can have a say in both the type and quality of care that they or their love ones receive, regardless of their circumstances. Fairly new to the Canadian marketplace, Long Term Care Insurance (LTC) can provide that freedom to choose.

The concept of LTC coverage is fairly straight forward. A person decides - while they are healthy - how much they would like to receive on a weekly basis once they become cognitively or functionally “dependent.” Dependence is normally defined not by any specific illness but rather by your inability to perform any two of the activities associated with normal daily living (ADLs). There are six basic ADLs: eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring (walking) and continence. Similar to purchasing Disability Insurance, you select a waiting period for when you’d want benefits to kick in, decide how much money you would need for care and how long you’d like your benefits to last. You can select a plan that reimburses you for expenses incurred or one that simply pays you a weekly rate without the hassle of having to submit receipts. You can also decide if you’d like the plan to cover care you receive at home, in a facility or a combination of both. You can even add extra features that protect against inflation and one that returns premiums paid to your beneficiaries if you die. While there are still only a handful of suppliers offering this coverage in Canada, they offer many options. With so many moving parts, it is very possible to design a Long Term Care Plan that suits your budget and the lifestyle you envision for your dependent years.

Normally a person will purchase Long Term Care Insurance for themselves, but it is also becoming popular for adult children to purchase it for their aging parents. When a family pools its resources together and makes a plan before a crisis hits, the results are often much better than when they have to do so under pressure.

LTC is also especially popular among women, since they tend to outlive their male counterparts and have likely experienced - as we did – the emotional and financial difficulties associated with caring for a dependent family member. In short, they get it.

Like my Mother-in-Law, there is likely going to come a day for all of us when we are going to need to rely on others for our care. When that day comes, wouldn’t it be nice to know you still had a say over where and how that care would be provided?

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