What To Do When a Parent has Dementia
My parents went to a holiday party with friends in December of 2001. During the dinner party, my father gradually became extremely dizzy and nauseated. Fortunately, one of the guests at the party was in the medical field and knew immediately that my father was on the verge of having a heart attack. My father thought his friend was overreacting, but reluctantly allowed his friend to rush him to the nearest emergency room. His doctors immediately confirmed that he was in critical condition and he did in fact need immediate medical attention.
When my brother and I heard the news, we both drove as fast as possible to the hospital. I remember parking my car and running inside to find my parents in the Cardiac ICU. I was in such shock that I had no idea where I parked my car when I finally went to find it again. I’m telling you this story so you will know that I speak from experience that life can change in the blink of an eye. The point of the story is not to scare you. It’s actually to teach you how to proactively plan for this type of situation from a financial planning perspective.
The physician said my father needed triple bypass heart surgery, and would definitely not be leaving the hospital any time soon. He ended up having heart bypass surgery on New Year’s Eve. This was the first time in my life that I experienced the frightening reality that I might lose my father. Fortunately, my father’s surgery was a success, and he eventually recovered from his heart surgery, but it was a very long journey.
We were incredibly grateful he was still alive and with our family. However, his cardiologist told us that it was not a matter of if, but when, he would have another heart issue. I think this is analogous to all of us actually.
We all have heart issues and are constantly in need of a relationship with someone who can save us.
Thank God there is hope in Christ.
Before my father got sick, I encouraged him to purchase a joint long-term care insurance policy that would provide benefits for both of my parents if either one ever needed extensive medical care. I honestly hoped that they would never have to use the insurance. I knew from a risk mitigation standpoint that it was more prudent and cost-effective to purchase a joint policy that both of my parents could benefit from financially, rather than an individual policy that would only provide benefits if one person became ill. I’d counseled many people already by that stage of my career about how to manage their personal finances. Well aware that no one knows what the future holds, I always tell my clients, “It’s best to plan for the worst-case scenario, and hope for the best-case scenario.”
Fortunately, with the help of modern medicine, my father’s heart condition and blood pressure continue to be under control. He just celebrated his seventy-eighth birthday. He’s not the type of retiree who plays golf or goes fishing a lot. Instead, he’s passionate about using the time he has here on earth to further God’s Kingdom and bring more people to Christ. His ministry, Chapel of Hope, has started eight chapels in the Texas prison system. Today, these eight chapels alone host an estimated 80,000 inmate visits and 15,000 volunteer visits every year.
My mother has also been an active part of my father’s ministry. However, about eight years ago we started noticing that her short-term memory was declining. She was still very active physically, but she was starting to show signs of confusion. After many visits to various doctors, specialists, and taking numerous tests, eventually she was diagnosed with dementia. Honestly, the news was quite devastating to her and our family. However, if you ask my mother, she would tell you that she’s the most blessed woman on earth. She has two grown children who love and adore her, and eight healthy, active grandchildren. She’s the picture of grace during a difficult trial. She loves God with all of her heart, mind, and soul.
After my father had triple bypass heart surgery, I always thought that he eventually would be the one to need part-time care, or full-time care in a nursing home. For the majority of the time my parents have had their long-term care insurance in place, it was never on my radar that my mom would be the one to benefit from the insurance.
After my mother received a formal diagnosis of dementia in 2013, she was able to begin collecting financial benefits from my parents’ joint long-term care insurance. The financial benefits from her insurance have made a world of difference in terms of both of my parents’ quality of life. One of the benefits of being medically qualified for financial benefits from your insurance is that you can stop paying the monthly or annual premiums. My father got a “raise” during retirement when he no longer had to cover the monthly insurance premiums with his fixed income.
The reality of life is that we don’t know what the future holds. Thank God we can rest in the fact that God does have a plan for each and every one of us. I’m grateful that God has given me the tools to help not only my parents, but also people like you to mitigate the financial burdens that can arise unexpectedly in life. I can assure you that God does provide for each and every one of us, and He is faithful.
Written by Emily Stroud for FaithGateway.
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