By Linda T. Cammuso:
Over the years, in many different client meetings and discussions, we have heard clients or their families say that they will “never go into a nursing home”. Usually this sentiment is an expression of support by children (“Dad knows we would never put him in a nursing home… we would take care of him at his house”) or between spouses (“If my wife’s dementia continues to get worse, we’ll just simplify our lifestyle and I’ll care for her at home”). Sometimes it’s an expression of confidence in one’s financial resources (“I have plenty of money to pay for caregivers to care for me in my home”) or a visceral reaction based on anxiety or a bad prior experience (“I’ve heard news stories about some of the conditions in nursing homes… that’s my worst nightmare”). Finally, there’s my personal favorite: the flippant denial that it could ever happen to them (“My wife knows to take me out back and shoot me when I get to that point”).
Time after time, we have seen these same individuals reach a heart -wrenching decision of having to break that promise to a spouse, parent or to themselves. Some discover that there is just no financial or logistical way to get care at home. Sometimes the intended caregiver child or spouse encounters their own health crisis or life change that prevents them from fulfilling that role. Sometimes it’s even a client with abundant financial resources but with a particular condition that makes care at home unworkable. Often times it’s a change of heart when the family starts exploring options and realizes there are many wonderful facilities with caring staff and amenities that will enhance their loved one’s quality of life. But always, there’s one common thread: regret that because they assumed it would “never happen” to them, they failed to plan for it.
When we meet clients who are in absolute denial that a nursing home could be part of their family’s future, we will gently suggest that the client at least humor us by engaging in a “what if” exercise – i.e., but what if you did go in? Would you be OK with your assets being spent down? Almost invariably they will say, “well if I did have to go in, of course I would want to protect my assets…”, and that allows us to have an honest conversation about their options. Many legal planning tools for long-term care can be seamlessly incorporated into clients’ estate plans. Even clients who don’t think they will (or certainly hope they won’t) end up in a nursing home need to be ready, or at least understand what that would look like for their finances.
Whether you’re a client of Estate Preservation Law Offices or just someone looking for information, do yourself and your family the favor of having honest conversations about these issues. A chat with your estate planning attorney is a good place to start.