'Gravity' and the long-term care crisis
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I recently went to see the movie
"Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is a
fast-paced, exciting thrill-ride from start to finish. After we left
the movie and I replayed the life-threatening events that unfolded
on the screen, I could not help but begin drawing comparisons to the
long-term care funding crisis currently unfolding in America today.
Start with the stars of the movie: The actors are both baby boomers,
and they find themselves unprepared to deal with a sudden crisis
that puts them in immediate jeopardy. Most seniors and baby boomers
are also unprepared for what is too often a sudden health crisis
through which they must safely navigate.
In space, an unexpected
collision with a satellite or other object is disastrous. For a
family, an unexpected fall or rapid decline in health can also be
The astronauts in "Gravity" had to contend with limited oxygen
and how they could conserve this precious resource long enough to
find sanctuary. For families confronting the costs of long-term
care, money is like oxygen. It is a precious resource in limited
supply that must be conserved. The biggest fear of the young is not
living long enough, and the biggest fear of people in long-term care
is living too long and outliving their "oxygen" supply.
Once disaster strikes in the movie, the characters played by
Bullock and Clooney are literally tethered together and entirely
dependent on each other for survival. Spouses and their family also
experience a similar "tethering" effect, where they become very
reliant on one another to make it through a long-term care crisis.
The feeling of being overwhelmed can be helped by sharing the burden
and focusing on the ultimate goal of making sure a loved one will be
able to receive the best possible care.
In the movie, the astronauts are prepared for every contingency
and have dedicated support systems in place to get them through each
phase of their mission. Nonetheless, when disaster strikes, things
quickly spin out of control. In life, too few people have made plans
for how to handle long-term care. A future long-term care patient
may have close loved ones, but those family and friends may not be
able to drop everything in devotion to a patient's care.
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Families should put in time now to discuss the wishes of loved
ones when it comes to long-term care and understand the financial
situation and available resources. Are there savings and investments
that can be accessed? Is there a long-term care or life insurance
policy in place that can be converted to pay for care -- and where
is it? Is there a final will or living will, and should a
power-of-attorney document be in place?
In the movies, our heroes often work their way through challenges
with a combination of luck and skill -- and, of course, some movie
magic -- to find their way to a happy ending. For families
confronting the hard decisions and costs surrounding long-term care,
however, they will not be able to count on a hero swinging in at the
last minute to rescue them.
But, a happy ending is possible for families who take the time
now to prepare, seek out information and know how to work together
to make sure their loved one will be able to achieve a safe landing.
Chris Orestis, a nationally known senior health-care advocate and
expert, is CEO of Life
Care Funding, which created the model for converting life
insurance policies into protected long-term care benefit funds. His
company has been providing care benefits to policyholders since
2007. A former life insurance industry lobbyist with a background in
long-term care issues, he created the model to provide an option for
middle-class people who are not wealthy enough to pay for long-term
care and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
[Text from file received from
News and Experts]