Leadership For Later: Making The Right Preparations For Retirement And Long-Term Care

Good business leaders not only lead their companies in the present, they also plan for the future. A good company leader keeps up with current events, studies trends, tries to be prepared for the future and, if proper planning is in place, is prepared for the unexpected events that can happen in a business.

So, as one of those successful business leaders, do you do the same in your personal life?

It seems that almost every day I hear another sad story. Someone else in my generation has had to turn into a caretaker for elderly parent. Even as they assume the caretaker role and burn through their own savings doing so, they still put off thinking about the undisputable fact that we are next.  

Former television producer Christi Ayo and I have been friends since we were kids. Christi worked her way up from administrative assistant to producer of one of the highest-rated shows on television, According to Jim. And then, she had to give it all up to come home and take care of her aging parents. 

“After years in Hollywood, I became a television producer, my dream job. Just as I saw my star rising, I got the call. Mom's health was failing in Houston, as was that of my stepfather, I needed to come home. After quickly appraising the situation, I knew what I had to do. Quit the dream job and come home to take care of my parents," said Ayo. "It has been four years now. My retirement savings is gone and they had nothing other than an aging home I am now trying to sell for the land value. That will cover some costs, but not for long. I’m moving them into my house. I have to work to support all of us and I have to think about my own future all the while going back and forth to feed, bathe, and take care of my aging parents, three to four times a day. Every day. Seven days a week.”

At least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long-term care (LTC) services at some point in their lives. Factor into this the deficit state of local and federal governments, the ever-increasing number of Medicaid recipients, the fact that Baby Boomers just turning 65 today are going to need long-term care in a bulging, giant “Silver Tsunami” in future years, and you don’t have a pretty picture, says Honey Leveen, a long-term health care expert and leading advocate. Meanwhile, government-funded long term care is already a bad deal; imagine what it might look like in 15 years.

“People who plan responsibly for long-term care, well in advance of needing care, will have far more dignity and access to different care options," Leveen said. "They and their families will suffer far less turmoil and strife than those who fail to plan."

Media specialist Susan Neuhalfen is another successful career woman and busy mom who now finds herself in an unplanned caretaker situation. 

"As older children of World War II, my parents were very careful. They never bought anything they couldn’t afford, they never carried a balance on a credit card and food never went to waste in my house. My parents were the epitome of responsibility right down to having long-term health care insurance. He canceled the insurance with the intent of signing with another agency. He didn’t have a chance. He suffered a stroke that should have killed him. Let me make something clear: My parents had full coverage health care insurance, Medicare and savings. It's not enough. The financial and emotional drain that faces them every day could easily been solved with long-term care insurance. Now my 77-year-old mother has gone from a well- deserved retirement to a job as full-time caretaker. My father, when he’s coherent, expresses his grief about the toll this situation has taken on our family and especially my mother. There is nothing worse than watching the people you love most suffer the consequences of one mistake for rest of their lives."

Caregiver situations, similar to those above and many other scenarios, are going to become commonplace. I am 52. My husband is 58. We already have long-term care policies in place for both of us to protect our three sons from the financial burden of our care in later years. Many of our friends, however, are acting like teenagers, thinking that nothing can touch them, that they are invincible. They are kicking ass every day, wildly successful, many in great shape...and most have yet to plan for anything including long-term healthcare or even retirement for that matter. 

To my fellow business leaders, you are next. Don’t leave the financial burden of long-term care for your kids or for the government to take care of. It’s a sad, sad story to find yourself part of so instead do what you did to become successful--stay informed and have a plan in place for whatever may come. Do it today. Now. Please.

Dayna Steele is a serial entrepreneur, author and business performance speaker  She is the author of Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World's Greatest Rock Stars. For more information, visit www.daynasteele.com.

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[Image: Flickr user Bethan]

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