Many years ago, as a young woman with three small children, I attempted to supplement our income by selling health insurance. I failed. In six months I sold just two policies – one to my parents and one to my cousin, both farmers in Central Kansas.
There were lots of reasons I didn't succeed, but my primary mistake was thinking that when someone purchased insurance from me, they were doing me a personal favor. That's the reason I didn't push my then-healthy 60 year-old mother to add the prescription rider to her hospital income policy, which they could have had for just a few additional dollars each month.
Ten years later, my mother was suffering with macular degeneration, osteoporosis, restless leg syndrome, heart disease, and severe hearing loss. And then my dad had a stroke and she became his primary caregiver.
One of the ways she coped with the stress of the job was to go to her computer, disengage her emotional monitor and write to me about everything she was experiencing and exactly how she felt about it.
Five-and-half years following Dad's first stroke. She wrote, "I told your dad that if he gets down completely, I will have to sell some land and put him in a nursing home. It didn't bother him at all. I'm sure he figures that he will commit suicide. I had your brother take his gun away."
A few months later, Dad stumbled and fell. He broke seven ribs and punctured a lung. Despite my mother's determination and absolute commitment to keep him at home, she finally had no choice.
She wrote, "I'm very grateful that you're coming home, although I don't anticipate this trip will be any fun for you. Your dad is not going to be happy about being moved from the hospital into the nursing home, even though they offer excellent care there. As I told you, it's very expensive, but I just can't take care of him in the shape he's in now. I don't know what I'll do if he doesn't die or get better before the Medicare benefits run out. If he doesn't recover enough for me to take him home, I'll have to sell some land. If I do, I won't tell him. As you know, the land has always been sacred to the men in our family."
Dad died two weeks later.
I have often thought about the huge difference long-term care insurance benefits could have made during the final stages of my parents' lives. Fortunately, they had continued to pay the premiums on the little hospital income policy I sold to them in 1984. Through the years it did exactly what the insurance company had promised it would do. Every time either of them stayed in the hospital, they received a check. That money paid for gas, food, hotels, and other unplanned expenses. It was a Godsend. Even so, it was a very small drop in a very large nad leaky bucket.
My mother frequently said, "Your Golden Years start the day your youngest child graduates from high school, and they end the day your health goes to hell."
Most of us will outlive our "Golden Years" and will need some form of long-term care. So when you see a now-healthy relative cross the street, or a friend duck around the aisle of the grocery store because they don't want to talk to you about insurance, try not to take it personally.
Because if and when their "Golden Years" come to a screeching halt and you have helped them provide quality health care for their loved one without having to sacrifice everything they have worked their entire lives to accumulate, I guarantee you they will appreciate your persistence and welcome your phone calls.
I can't tell you how many times my mother said, "I'm sure glad we have that hospital income policy." How sad to remember at the time, I thought she was buying it just to help me.