I want to share with you a sad tale of what happens when our health fails us and we may not have planned as wisely for tomorrow as we might have. The disclaimer here is that expectations and hopes are not always achievable and sometime we find ourselves in a situation that might have been different- if we had planned differently. The scenario below is fictional; it is based on combined events from previous families with whom I have worked. In this particular story, it involves a gentleman who I would have considered to be of ‘high net worth’.
Let me introduce you to John. I met John when his wife was in the later stages of dementia. John owned an exporting business and as he would say, he enjoyed ‘the good life’. This included spending summers at their cottage, having regular vacations, driving an expensive car and having several memberships and subscriptions to a variety of venues and events. He was always a generous man, donating time and money when he could.
John’s wife, Sue, ultimately required 24 hour care, which had initially been provided by John and supplemented by both our public and private systems. As I have frequently blogged on the high cost of caregiving, it will be no surprise to hear that the 24/7 care that Sue had over the last two years of her life totaled over $300,000.
Fast forward several years later when I received a call from John’s daughter.
After Sue’s passing, I learnt that John sold the family home and had moved into a rental apartment. After a few months, he felt he needed some assistance with the cooking and cleaning and decided to explore retirement communities. His daughter graciously invited him to live with her and he moved in to her basement apartment. Sadly after a few short months, he suffered a stroke. He was badly affected and his mobility, speech and cognition were now significantly impaired. He could not return to live with his daughter. What I learnt was that John was bankrupt and he could not afford to move into a retirement setting nor pay for the increased care that he now required. John was ultimately accepted into a Long Term Care and a facility that was sadly his last choice. John died practically penniless shortly after the placement.
Lesson Learnt: While we are able to look back, we seem to have difficulties looking ahead. I wonder if John would have lived any differently if he knew what lay ahead. Saving today and planning ahead for our frailer years can hopefully make the journey more comfortable.