By Cyril Tuohy
Genworth has enlisted a pair of A-list names, journalist Maria Shriver and actor Rob Lowe, to encourage families to engage in discussions around long-term care.
It is Christmas week, after all, when millions of families prepare to celebrate their respective traditions and engage in fireside chats about the family, the year that was and the year that will be.
It’s also an opportunity to bring up the subject of how the oldest family members see themselves planning the last third of their lives.
“I think for sure we need a national conversation around long-term care, long-term health, how we as a nation are going to take care of our boomers, our aging parents, of ourselves,” Shriver said in a video released last week.
The video is part of an educational series titled “Conversations that Matter: Maria Shriver and Rob Lowe,” in which the celebrities discuss the challenges they face in caring for their parents.
Shriver, 59, said she nearly found herself overwhelmed when her mother broke her hip and suffered from a series of strokes. At about the same time, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Myself, I was trying to balance my own children and my own family,” Shriver said. “I was doing it long distance, I was doing it in my home and it was wrenching.”
The video was released after Genworth’s “Let’s Talk Tour” earlier this year to raise awareness around long-term care.
“Having your loved ones under one roof during the holiday season is the perfect time to start talking about long term care planning,” Tom McInerney, Genworth president and CEO, said in a news release.
If nothing else, talking about long-term care needs during the next two weeks will get the discussion flowing and plant a seed about how and where parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents see themselves in the next five years.
Don’t wait until something happens to starting taking about long-term care. “The sense that you are waiting for events to react to is never a good idea,” Lowe said.
With baby boomers retiring in vast numbers, retirees living longer and the absence of a national policy about how to care for seniors, many elderly Americans look to their children as the primary source of care.
Lowe, 50, who has lived in California for years, said his aging father lives in Ohio. Bridging that distance is going to be a challenge when the time comes for Lowe to help his father, he said.
With so much long-term care offered in the form of uncompensated care by younger family members, families need a plan for how to deal with aging boomers before they succumb to a chronic condition or disability, Shriver said.
“Someone can get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, someone can get a stroke and all of a sudden you are in the thick of it and you’ve made no plans, and you can go from being pretty well off to really struggling in a couple of months if you have no plans,” Shriver said.
In a report to Congress last year, the Commission on Long-Term Care proposed expanding the role of private long-term care insurance as a way to defray the cost of long-term care borne by publicly funded programs like Medicaid.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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