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Many seniors are counting on government programs to help with medical expenses in retirement. But these programs are in terrible financial shape. This makes the right insurance a vital part of your loved one’s financial plan.

But the insurance world can be extremely confusing without the right help.

In this episode, financial advisor Tena Burrell discusses why partial insurance coverage may be the right choice for you, how to get benefits from a long-term care policy that has been canceled, and how life insurance benefits can be used without dying.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • How to get benefits from your loved one’s long term care policy even if they dropped it because it was unaffordable (3:56)
  • Why your loved one cannot rely on Medicaid and how to properly prepare for unexpected medical expenses (11:39)
  • The one document you must have to ensure your family member’s finances are secure (6:57)
  • How putting a joint bank account can cost you everything you have (7:58)
  • Why it’s in everyone’s best interest to track every penny of financial assistance you give a loved one (14:48)

For daily 5-minute mind exercises, head over and like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hcafortworth/

You can also find additional support and resources by calling Home Care Assistance at 817-349-7599 or visit our websites https://www.homecareassistancefortworth.com/ and https://itsmyturntocare.com/.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “It’s My Turn To Care.” We know the challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. That's why each week we bring you tips, strategies, and most of all, support, as you navigate your role as caregiver. Let's get started. [00:15.6]

Dave: Hello, this is Dave Parks, and you're listening to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver, where it's always our goal to give you tips and strategies, and things to think about, as you maneuver through the journey of caring for someone with dementia. I own a company called Home Care Assistance and I also am a certified senior advisor.

We have a special guest with us today. Of course, all my guests are special, but Tena Burrell and Tena has been in the financial services world for over 30 years, and she helps individuals and families plan for their financial future. [01:01.6]

She specializes in the fields of retirement and estate planning, and educates clients on how to preserve their financial assets while maintaining a sustainable standard of living. She is the owner of Financial & Estate Planning Services. She takes her many years of experience and offers sound financial alternatives to create solutions based on the needs of each individual client, and it's so important to have kind of our financial ducks in a row, so to speak, as it's hard to get away from that financial question and it does. The better you plan, the earlier you plan, the more options you're going to have as you move through this journey.

It's our privilege to have Tena on—and, Tena, thanks so much for joining the program.

Tena: Thank you for having me, Dave. [01:54.3]

Dave: All right. Actually this is Part 2 of a two-part series. We're dealing with financial issues around caring for someone with dementia. We're going to touch on it, again, that we think it's so important about the emphasis we need to put on planning. Talk a little bit about that for us.

Tena: Sure. As we've experienced, we have a lot of times when situations arise and they're last minute. They're emergency. Something has happened that now we're thrust into that caregiver role and we just really don't know where to start. Not only is that stressful for the caregiver, but in a lot of ways, it's stressful for the care recipient because they just don't know what their future holds.

So, it's wonderful if people can have a discussion about what they might want. If I were to get sick and/or had dementia, what would I like to have happen? That way it's always in the back of their mind somewhere that they've had some plan. They think they know what they'd like or where they're going to live, and in order to do that, you have to have the money, like you said, to plan ahead. [03:00.0]

Knowing what we have or we don't have is a big part of what I do in helping people keep track or try to figure out what they can do to make things better or easier for the loved ones. It's never too early to plan. I hear a lot of people say you should buy long-term care insurance after you turned 60. That could be true for one person, but not true for another person who might have, if they have some type of pre-existing condition, if they wait until they're 60, it might be too late.

However, there are a lot of people that have had long-term care insurance and had to quit paying on it because it got so unaffordable, the old fashioned type, and the families don't know about it, and what they don't know is that if they had that policy for more than three years and that they paid the premiums consistently until the rate increase has made them unaffordable, they can go back to that insurance company and actually get some residual benefits out of that, so I think that's one of the best kept secrets. [03:55.6]

If Mom or Dad said, I had this policy, but I couldn't keep it just knowing who that company is with, the policy, any information you can get on that, if you ever have to go on claim, it can be something you get a few dollars out of, whatever they put in a premium over that three-year period. Insurance companies don't come right out and make that really public, but it is a state law, kind of like nonforfeiture.

That's why I ask people about things, if they have ever had any kind of insurance policies that they let go that were long-term-care orientated, life insurance, other policies that can be used in different ways and what they originally designed to be. I think all of us hear these commercials on TV about how you can sell your life insurance now. That's one of the things people can do, use that for long-term care. It is great to plan ahead and know these things that we would otherwise have a very difficult time fact gathering later on.

Dave: Sure, and long-term care, that's part of when we bring on a new client. We always ask if they have long-term care and, frankly, in many cases, the loved one of the actual client doesn't really know, so they have to kind of go sift through some papers to see if they can find it. [05:00.4]

Then just another comment on long-term care, it's so different depending on the policy, and that's one of the services we offer as we want to help the clients sift through that long-term care policy and also with professionals like yourself available that really understand that could make a big difference on the quality of care that the individual receives.

Tena: Absolutely, and just knowing how much money they've saved, where it's at. A lot of times, I have parents that either want to disclose everything to their children or nothing at all. By having the conversations with them early about why we need to know or where we need to go to look, even if you don't want to tell me today, tell me what's in the safe deposit box, so then I know where to go to look. That's the next best thing. [05:48.5]

Dave: Right, absolutely, and I mentioned this last week about helping my father-in-law kind of get his financial house kind of in order and it's good to have, whether it be a family member or someone that you trust to kind of know where the information is at a very minimum, because that could be devastating to your survivors or to someone who's trying to care for you. It's really in your best interest, but it needs to be someone that you trust, though.

Okay, talk a little bit about kind of this transition of I know that I'm going to need to help my parents with their finances, and how do I get started down that journey?

Tena: A lot of people don't have that opportunity before it's unfortunately the time where we have to do that and, hopefully, their parents have done some legal work, got some legal documents. The financial power of attorney, which is called the general power of attorney is the one document that's either going to enable a person to speak to a bank or a financial institution or not. [06:58.0]

I mean, it is the one document you really need to have that says, This person is allowed to speak on my behalf. I'm here and alive, because banks and financial institutions, absolutely insurance companies will not divulge any information, brokerage accounts, etc., without that. So, it's imperative because if you don't know what parents are paying for on a monthly basis, and you need to go and find that out, it's just even your cable bill. It's almost impossible to get information from a cable company or electric company.

That would be my first words of wisdom. Make sure everybody has that financial power of attorney on the financial side. It's as important there as a medical power of attorney is on the health side. I suggest people start sharing bank accounts information rather than don't always put your adult children on your bank account, because if your adult child gets in a car wreck and they're sued, then their money, your money becomes subject to their liabilities. [07:54.3]

That's what most attorneys will recommend, to have them as a financial power of attorney, but not put your money at risk or liability. Having people on joint bank accounts was kind of something people did in the past, but nowadays between lawsuits or divorces, there's just a lot of family dynamics that can make that very difficult. That's probably the less likely thing that we want to do.

But being involved ahead of time also helps keep people from scams, like one of my adult clients. Her son is able to log into all her bank accounts and see if she's getting unusual charges. She lives in an assisted living facility, so he knows exactly what should come out, but if there's a charge on her bank account or a credit card or anything that's out of the norm, he's going to catch that, whereas if he didn't have that login information or access, she could be scammed that he would not know for months.

I see that happen with a lot of people. They’ll call up sometimes and tell me, Microsoft called me and said my computer is not working, and these are my seniors that still use their computers, or I’ve got something in the mail. Is this for real or is this a scam? [09:07.3]

Some things that you just have to ask people about, but that online banking makes it easy for long distance caregivers to be able to help from afar, and a lot of times, you'll have caregivers where one is long distance. They're trying to do that. What can I do to help? I'm not there every day hands-on, so that's a great job for that person to be able to help, while the other person who's hands-on is there every day to go into the doctor's appointments, helping with the home health care facilitation.

It used to be statistically men were the more not necessarily long distance, but the technical financial person and the women were the hands-on. I've worked a lot with volunteering with the area agency on aging and we've seen that statistic change over the years. A lot of times there'll be an adult son who’s the only son, only child, I should say, or for whatever reason, we have sandwich generations. [10:02.0]

I know a lot of people haven't heard that term or are not familiar with it, but where you have a person who's technically a baby boomer trying to take care of their own children who are still at home, and they have Mom and Dad, right? The wife, the mother of that family, may be just too bogged down to be able to be hands-on, so that role reversal happens a lot where the men are being more hands-on and going to the doctor's appointments, and then they're going to rely more heavily on the financial and the legal and the CPAs to help them with the other things that they may not have time to do.

Dave: Yeah. I do think it's so important to kind of split up the work -

Tena: Oh, yeah.

Dave: - because it is work, and one person can do this piece and another can do this piece, and maybe another can do this piece, because if it all falls on one child or one cousin, or one loved one, then it can get overwhelming quickly. All right, very good.

We touched a little bit on this in the last program, but talk again briefly about what the government has created to kind of help with long-term care. [11:07.8]

Tena: The government really had not had a plan for many, many years. Back in the old days, there was a plan called Medicaid and it originally started out where it was going to help cover some long-term care, but it didn't kick in until after you've really had been in care needed for at least 90 to 100 days.

The Medicaid program is unfortunately very undefended nationwide, so regardless of what state you're in, it's not going to pay for all of your care and it's going to be a minimum, like after your Medicare and health insurance benefits end. So, it is something that's there for folks who are very low income or people who have managed to move assets or spend down all their assets, and then you’ve got to look at the quality of that care. It's a program that's out there. I often encourage people to look at the quality of care before they decide if that's the avenue they want to go down if they're making that decision to look at an illegal plan to do so. [12:07.2]

But the other option is really to self-fund or to plan ahead and have some long-term care insurance, so that the “what if,” I call it the financial train wreck that we're not really expecting happens, you have one or two ways to either fund it or save your money and still get some of that money back. I do long-term care insurance audits, which means to basically look at those with people and say, Here's what you have for long-term care. If you have this, if there's a gap, let's figure out how we're going to cover that gap.

If they're a veteran, then we appreciate their service to our country, but they have some additional benefits. Any veteran who's been in active military during a wartime has some access to some additional long-term care benefits. I often work with those folks or refer them to their local veterans VA office. If they can call there and get some answers, that's great. If they can go there in person, that's even better. [13:01.7]

Of course, right now that's difficult, but there are folks like myself and there's a lot of attorney firms that do specialize in working with veterans as well. We can educate them. I've worked with a lot of folks and been able to help them plan ahead, so that when they go to apply for those VA benefits, they have their assets and income in order because there is a limitation. There is a test, an asset test on that as well.

Dave: Yeah, and a lot of times that's another question we ask our clients when we onboard them. Is there any military history? I don't know all the rules, but we get them with people who can kind of help them determine whether they would qualify or not.

We have one client where that's the only care she receives, which is through the VA, and then we have another client that needs more care than what the VA will pay for, so they have so many hours with the VA that pays for the care and then they do some private pay as well. It's not all or nothing, right? It can be a supplement to what they're doing. [14:03.8]

Tena: Absolutely.

Dave: Let's talk a little bit about your lifestyle, how you are as a caregiver, your lifestyle, your financials, and how that's going to be impacted when you take care of somebody.

Tena: And it is a great point that you make there, Dave. First of all, the financials. I myself found myself subsidizing my brother a couple of hundred dollars every month before he passed away, just because his income was lower and he needed that help. Most caregivers are going to end up doing that. One of the most important things they can do is keep a very good track record of what they're spending, because if they ever do go to apply for one of those government programs, they need to be able to say, Here's what was my expense versus the caregiver's expense.

But it's a stressful thing being a caregiver. Long-term, it can be stressful in a marriage. It can be stressful on a job. It's really important to take care of ourselves. The old cliché, you’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of somebody else, it’s so true because one of the things I learned as a caregiver myself early on by going to caregiver support groups was that keep a daily journal or weekly journal if you can't do it daily. [15:14.4]

Make a list on the left-hand side of what you've done for everyone else, what you've done for yourself on the right-hand side, and when that list becomes so unbalanced, you realize, Okay, I’ve got to get some help in here and do something different. That keeps you in check with “I'm just not taking care of myself.”

There are a lot of support groups out there in the real world in real times, but, again, now we have some churches that have had to quit doing support groups because of COVID, but communicating, if you're still working years and you're trying to work and take care of someone, having that communication with your supervisors and HR is essential because the family care leave act is more lenient than it's ever been, but they need to know what's going on with you. [15:58.1]

I've done facilitated programs on behalf of the area agency on aging in big corporate spaces, even state farm insurance and other companies that allowed us to come in and talk to the employees about this because they realize just how much productivity and money they're losing with people having to take off work to be a full-time caregiver.

Dave: Yeah, we did some. I don't know if we talked about it on this program or not, but there's been some studies done, and this is amazing to me, that the average caregiver gives up almost $750,000 of income and benefits while they're caring for someone, and a lot of times that has to do with maybe they leave work a little early. Say, they're in sales, and so they don't get to sell as much or maybe they pass up a promotion because it's travel involved, but they can't because there's care and they need to care for someone. It can be a real kind of hidden financial burden in a way. [16:58.3]

Tena: It sure can. I mean, not only that, promotion, relocation. A lot of times, people can't relocate because of that, and so that can be a huge burden when you start thinking about property values and taxes, and all the things that one would make a decision on independently if they didn't have that responsibility.

Having good financial planning in advance helps you and helps your loved ones. It also gives you some freedom to be able to just have a less stressful life. If you don't have to stress over the money part, then the parts that are going to be stressful, we can't get rid of, but we can at least plan ahead for them.

Dave: Yeah, if we didn't have to worry about money, wow.

Tena: That would be nice.

Dave: What a great life that would be. Tena, thanks so much for doing two programs with us. If you were to have maybe just one or things you would want our listeners to walk away from or walk away with, what would that be? [17:54.8]

Tena: Plan ahead. It's never too early to plan. Don't wait till you're 50 or 60 years on golden age. Anyone can go out here today and get run over by the Mack truck, as I have often said. I mean, at my age of 40, I had a plan. I had long-term care insurance, which is probably extremely young, but then I was being a caregiver at that age, so I saw the importance of it. It's never too early to plan.

Dave: And I just thought about something. In full disclosure, I'm also a client of Tena's and we bought a long-term care policy from her a couple of years ago, and the thought was you don't necessarily have to cover the full cost of care.

Tena: Right.

Dave: If you can afford covering just part of the potential care, then you need to try to pull the trigger on that. A lot of people think it's all or nothing. It's really like anything else. You're insuring against the unknown, but if you can insure against the full amount, try to think about insuring against at least part of it.

Tena: Right, and taking your other income and assets into account is a big part of that. The financial planning is part of that planning that one should do and realize, I'm going to have X amount of dollars of income. What's the difference? What's the gap? [19:10.6]

Dave: Yeah. Tena, you’ve got some great tips and strategies for our listeners. If someone wants to reach out to you and find out more about, how would they do that?

Tena: They can either reach me by going through my website, which I keep very simple. It’s my name spelled out, T-E-N-A-B-U-R-R-E-L-L, so it’s TenaBurrell.com, or they can reach me toll free at (800) 536-9996.

Dave: Great, and thanks again for being on the program.

Tena: My pleasure.

Dave: Absolutely. This is Dave Parks with It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver, and we always encourage you to visit our website, which is HomeCareAssistanceFortWorth.com, and our phone number is (817) 349-7599. We look forward to another great show next week. [20:04.9]

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