When you imagine needing long term care, what do you imagine?
Are you in your own home, tended to by paid caregivers, with visits from family and friends? Or is the location a larger building, perhaps an assisted living facility, where responsibilities such as yard care and cooking are someone else's concern?
No matter the setting, let's hone in on who is there with you. Are your needs tended to by paid caregivers, with visits from family and friends?
Or, will you be home, alone? With a little (or a lot of) help from technology?
An article in the June 2018 issue of "The Elderly Report," a newsletter for lawyers, got me thinking. An article, "Technological Innovations Can Help Seniors" gives a glimpse of how high-tech advancements may disrupt the way we receive long term care, especially in our homes. The article states "New technologies are increasingly being used to help seniors remain at home longer...Some of these innovations may have the potential to complement the care provided by home health care workers, of which there is a growing shortage." Wrist watches can now monitor and communicate between patient and caregiver, and medical robots can do medication reminders and fall detection and reporting.
In the future, will looking for a caregiver for mom or dad involve a trip to Comcast, or a call to an ADT-like company? Will the company that sells "I've fallen and I can't get up" pendants also be selling robots and mechanical "pets" programmed to purr and provide companionship - albeit of a mechanical type? I think it's likely.
Is this good news? Is it a brave new world of more reliable, less expensive caregiving, or a dystopia in which lonely seniors are cared for by technology instead of by humans? There's a whole lot of people looking into this, as evidenced that in June the annual "Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit" was held - for, not the 1st or 5th year - but for the 15th year! This year's theme was Investment, Impact, and Opportunity, in the Longevity Marketplace.
My gut tells me that a little technology could help make caregiving more affordable, and extend how long a long term care insurance policy's benefit for human caregiving lasts...and that's a good thing! Keep in mind that policyholders lock in benefit amounts and contractual language when the policy is purchased, so policyholders will have the relative luxury of being able to pay for human caregivers.
I can easily imagine a scenario where government programs - such as Medicaid - will provide less human caregivers and more technologically-based, cost-effective, caregiving. This is great news to help overcome the shortage of caregivers, however, more cost effective solutions don't necessarily correspond with what is desirable.
No matter what the future holds, it's a good bet that private long term care insurance, and the pile of money it earmarks for long term care, will provide peace of mind and access to high-touch human care, in the setting that's desired. Because home alone is a great title for a movie, but it's no way to live when long term care is needed.
Brigitte Bromberg, MS, CFP®, CSA® is an independent insurance specialist who provides unbiased, consultative, solutions for long term care, life and disability insurance needs.
For more than 30 years Brigitte has worked diligently to provide clients the information and insight they need to make informed insurance decisions. President of Winning Strategies Group LLC, Brigitte loves speaking to groups, and she also loves helping people implement creative, smart insurance strategies.