Navigating Life as the Sandwich Generation

Two months before my wedding, my soon-to-be husband got a call from an emergency room near his mother. She’d come in with bad flu symptoms, and they wanted us to pick her up and take her home so she wouldn’t have to drive herself. When we arrived, it was immediately clear to us that she was completely mentally altered and a simple flu couldn’t be the explanation. After much insistence and fuss-raising, we got her evaluated by a neurologist. She had one of the worst cases of viral encephalitis the doctor had ever seen.

By the time our wedding arrived, she was in rehab recovering. The brain injury caused by her encephalitis, sadly, escalated her next big health crisis: Alzheimer’s. During the next 10 years, my husband slowly began taking over most of her care and managing her finances until we had to finally put her into a facility that could care for her escalating needs.

During those times, one thing that helped us immensely was rather unexpected. It turned out that many years earlier—right after her husband passed away—my mother-in-law purchased a very, very good long-term care insurance policy. This enabled her to have a home-care aid for several years, and helped in placing her in a better quality home when it came time. It was a tremendous boon to our family.

This was never clearer than this past January when it was my turn; I got a call from my mother’s doctor saying she was in for an appointment and clearly had some sort of very severe pneumonia. My mother was suffering from a profound hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) that was causing her to be combative and mentally altered, and she was resisting going to the hospital.

After a 10-day medically induced coma, two months of rehab, and six months of my mother being out of work, my husband and I nearly lost our house trying to keep her (and us) afloat financially. My mother has zero long-term care insurance, no disability insurance (she’s an adjunct professor), and little in the way of savings. Eventually we addressed the problem by triggering my mom’s Social Security early and having her move in with us. We’re adjusting to being a family of four now; secretly I think my daughter loves having her Grandma around all the time. I do, too—mostly. We clash a little during TV time at night. But we’ll survive.

The contrast between the two scenarios is stark, and it’s all because my mother-in-law was smart and purchased long-term care insurance early; she was in her late 40s. We’ve brought the subject up with my mom, but we’ve met some resistance; she thinks long-term care insurance equals nursing home. We’re trying to correct that misconception; long-term insurance would actually make it much easier to keep her at home, after all. At 43 now myself, it’s also something my husband and I have on our “list” when our finances recover this year.

  1. Really helpful story. Thanks for sharing that. I have a 17-yr veteran in LTC that can help you find a good plan when you are ready.

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