Everyone Has A Story

In 2024, the long term care insurance industry will celebrate its golden anniversary. These fifty years have been chocked full of evolving product offerings ranging from initial nursing home only plans, to traditional, stand-alone products that offer coverage ranging from home care to assisted living facilities to skilled nursing facilities and every other form one can imagine. Hybrid and combination products that feature long term care riders attached to life insurance and annuity chassis, to asset-based products that allow policyholders to largely “self-insure” with a stop-loss measure attached.

Over the past twenty-five years, the long term care insurance industry has really come of age. The advent of new facilities being built by some of the largest names in the hotel industry, changes in tax laws, the addition of Partnership across nearly all fifty states, along with literally millions of years of policy data have allowed carriers to refine their offerings and to provide an even greater array of options for those seeking protection.

Ironically, it has been twenty-five years since I left the practice of law to pursue a career in the long term care insurance industry, so I have been around for half the duration of the industry. When I look back on my own experience, it astounds me how far we have come and, at the same time, how inertia still grips the vast majority of the country’s adults as they continue to mire themselves in denial.

My first clients were part of the Greatest Generation. They fought in World War II, came home, went to school on the GI Bill, raised a family (the Baby Boomer generation), often worked their entire career for the same company, retiring with a gold watch and a pension. If they had a family history of long term care, it was often unknown even to them until we asked open-ended questions that helped them discover this truth. Yes, Mom and/or Dad had come to live with them at the end of their lives, often occupying a bedroom formerly belonging to one of the children. I can remember often asking potential clients during the home interview if they can envision having to displace one of their grandchildren from their bedrooms.

Fast forward any number of years to the baby boomers. Unlike their parents, they do have the stories, far more readily as they quickly became the Sandwich Generation, often finding themselves taking care (physically, emotionally, financially) of aging parents while also supporting their children with college educations. Sadly, this often involves the necessity for second mortgages on their homes as well as a strain on them professionally, emotionally, and physically.

Often, an open-ended question as simple as, “Why did Grandpa (or Mom or Dad) have to move in with you?” would take them back in time to their youth, and we would begin the process of identifying need in their own lives.

As the years have passed, I have found it far easier to identify stories of family long term care among the baby boomers who have lived the “nightmare” up close and personal. One of the most poignant stories I have discovered took place about fifteen years ago. I asked my usual “Have you ever had a parent or grandparent live with you because they could not safely live on their own?” and heard the following story.

“My grandfather came to live with us while I was a freshman in high school. He came to live with us because my grandmother had died, and the family did not think it was safe for grandpa to live on his own. His memory was not what it used to be, and he would often leave the stove on, doors unlocked, or go out to the mailbox without any shoes on. At first, it was cool to have grandpa living with us. I would come home from school, drop off my books, have a snack, walk the dog, and then take my grandpa for a walk. On these walks he would tell me stories about flying in B-25 bombers over Germany in World War II. But as time went on, the walks got longer, Grandpa got slower, and after a while I knew the stories better than he did. By the time I was graduating I hated those walks, and was grateful that I had an after-school job so that I could avoid them.”

As I said, this was a very poignant story and even with the passing of time, I can still remember the visceral account as it was related to me by my client. Of course, the “hot spot” question that closed the sale for me was “how will you feel if, someday, a grandchild of yours has the same feelings about having to walk you around the block?” The look of resignation and then determination in his eyes told me that he was now a believer and would maintain his long term care insurance policy until he died. To date, despite a few rate increases, he has maintained the joint policy he purchased for he and his wife.

Satire is one of my favorite forms of comedy. Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves became Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights. George Lucas’ Star Wars became, again, Mel Brooks’ Space Balls. All the true-life sad stories of grandparents moving in with their families gave rise to Robert DeNiro starring in 2020’s satire The War with Grandpa, which follows an interesting premise as to why DeNiro’s character is forced to move in with his daughter and her family.

After accidentally stealing from a grocery store due to having trouble with the self-checkouts and causing a scene with the store manager, recently widowed Ed Marino (DeNiro)) is visited by his daughter Sally Marino-Decker (Uma Thurman)) who wants him to move in with her family. Ed does not want to leave his house because he built it himself. Sally convinces Ed to move in with her and gives him her son Peter’s (Oakes Fegley) bedroom. Peter is not happy about giving his room to his grandfather and being moved to the attic. Ed is welcomed by Sally’s husband Arthur and two daughters Mia and Jenny. During his first day, Ed spends most of his time in his new room, sitting in his chair and looking at the sky while still thinking about his late wife.

Peter then tells his friends about his grandfather moving in with his family and living in his room. After a miserable first night in his new room in the attic, Peter decides to declare war. Ed agrees, so long as they follow the rules of engagement: They cannot damage other people’s belongings and cannot tell the family about their arrangement. Peter pulls a series of pranks, including replacing Ed’s shaving cream with quick-drying foam and damaging his record player. Ed gets back at Peter with pranks including removing all the screws from Peter’s furniture and rewriting his school report. Ed turns to his friends Danny (Cheech Marin) and Jerry (Christopher Walken) for some advice. Over time, Ed begins to spend time with his granddaughters and son-in-law and learns how to use modern technology, such as self-checkouts and apps which aids him in his own war-like efforts towards his increasingly aggressive grandson.

After an ever-escalating war of pranks on one another (nearly resembling the antics of Home Alone), there is the inevitable climax when the entire family is involved, all is revealed, and an armistice is forced onto the combatants.

As time passes, Ed and Peter finally are getting along until Ed leaves one day to be with Diane, with whom he is now in a relationship. Peter looks on angrily, declaring a war on both of them as they leave, leaving the door open for an unwanted sequel!

While this movie makes light of the ever-growing need for a three-generation family living under one roof, over the past twenty-five years I have encountered the resentment that often accompanies this necessary arrangement. So many times I have asked clients or prospective clients about these experiences and the difference having or not having had a policy made in their lives.

As previously noted, nearly everyone I encounter these days has a story of their own to share. Some of the stories are tinged with good memories and happy emotions, but increasingly I am hearing the opposite. Resentment, frustration, and sometimes even bitterness from the family members who “drew the short straw” or were the only ones willing to step up. Recently, with the advent of National Long Term Care Awareness Month, the staff at Krause Financial was encouraged to tell their own family story of long term care. We encourage you to view them on the Krause YouTube Channel.

The silver lining that accompanies the dark cloud of long term care is that today people have a wide range of choices on how and where to receive any necessary care. The key is to make sure that this care does not have a negative impact on the family financially, physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is about choice. But just like the person who fervently prays to win the lotto but fails to purchase a ticket, this peace of mind starts with having to purchase a policy. Encourage your clients to investigate this valuable coverage while they are younger and have the requisite health and wealth so that they can ensure that theirs is a story with a happy ending.

Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC, is now the Strategic Relations Director for the Krause Agency following their acquisition of USA-LTC. Levin is the past three-term chairman of the board of the National Long Term Care Network and the past president and CEO of USA-LTC.

Levin has been in the long term care industry since 1999, during which time he has been an award-winning agent, district manager, regional sales manager, marketing director, associate general agent, general agent, and divisional vice president. Levin is also a former practicing Attorney-at-Law, court-appointed arbitrator and is a retired U.S. Army officer.

In addition to his various law and life and health insurance licenses, and the above designations, Levin has also earned Green Belt certification through GE’s Six Sigma program and is a graduate of GAMA International’s Essentials of Leadership and Management. He has also taught Managing Goal Achievement®, Integrity Selling® and The Way to Wealth® to hundreds of leaders and salespeople over the past fifteen years.

He previously possessed FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 licenses. Levin earned his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School, his MPA from the University of Oklahoma, and his BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Defense Strategy Course, U.S. Army War College.
He is a published author of fourteen books in a wide range of genres.

Levin may be reached via telephone at (800) 255-1932. Email: donlevin@krause.com.