The Ripple Effect vs. Planning Ahead
by Christine Eggers, owner of Appeal to Heaven
Monica graduated from university last year and had just settled in at her job when her supervisor called her into her office. Monica was informed her hours would need to change because a co-worker, Kyle, needed to leave work by 2:00 in order to pick his children up from school as his wife, Lisa, was now caring for her father after a bicycling accident. One of the reasons Monica accepted the job in first place was because the company’s core value of “treating employees like family” aligned with her personal values. Even so, she found it frustrating that her life should be upended by some guy she’d never met.
Lisa’s parents divorced when she was in high school, and her siblings have since moved away and rarely come home. She is a corporate attorney for a regional hospital in her hometown. She dreams of becoming COO of a hospital on the coast where she and Kyle would like to retire someday. Lisa was just about to apply for the department head position at her current hospital when her father had his bicycling accident, leaving him with a compound fracture and a mild head injury. Since the accident, Lisa has frequently needed to take time off to manage her father’s care, get him to appointments, pay his bills, and assist him with tasks like showering and meal preparation. On several occasions Lisa’s dad has called her at work for “emergencies” like accidentally switching the input on the TV and not being able to get his program back on. With all of this going on, Lisa feels like it’s not a good time to take on a large promotion, but also fears there may not be another advancement opportunity for years.
Jerry is 58 years old. He works as a mechanic for a trucking company. After his divorce he went through a depression and spent a lot of time at the bar, which cost him a few jobs. Now he’s been sober ten years, and the past eight he’s been an avid bicyclist, traveling on weekends to participate in races. Jerry lives alone in a two-story house where his bedroom and the only full bathroom are both on the second floor. Because of this difficult layout, he sleeps in his recliner most nights since his accident. His biking buddies sent tons of cards and flowers, and even a few visited while he was in the hospital, but that’s quieted down since being home. Lisa is his only family in town, other than his ex-wife who he hasn’t spoken with since their youngest got married. He never thought he’d be laid up like this at his age.
There are many more characters whose lives have been impacted by this story. Kyle’s parents who haven’t seen him or their grandchildren because Jerry’s accident canceled a planned trip to visit them. Jerry’s co-workers have had to pick up the extra work that Jerry would have done. His employer has had complaints about delays in repairs. Kyle and Lisa’s kids initially loved that Kyle was more inclined to pick up dinner at McDonald’s than Lisa, but lately missed having the whole family together at the dinner table.
There are also details that most people don’t consider. Jerry is still seven years away from being eligible for Medicare and so his health insurance is dependent on his employment. Before the accident, he had dropped his disability insurance because he was keeping so fit through bicycling that he didn’t think he would ever need it and figured he could use the extra money for racing. Lisa feels resentment toward her mother because if she had not left Jerry, she would be there to care for him.
The moral of this story: plan ahead. Have the difficult conversations. Know what insurances your loved ones have and encourage them to have more. Helping a parent with LTC insurance premiums could protect your lifestyle as much as their own. Many financial planners only advise LTC insurance for clients with high value assets to protect. That may be shortsighted. It could mean that adult children, whose parents need care, find themselves depleting their own assets to support a parent. Consult your entire family. Identify realistic options. Many of us are unprepared for the need for care. When we aren’t prepared, we can’t even begin to imagine how many people we are actually imposing on.
Christine Eggers RN is the owner of Appeal to Heaven LLC: Independent Nurses’ Network. The characters depicted are composites of people she has met, known, and cared for over 30 years in the nursing profession.