As many of you know, my family was blindsided by my dad’s needs, specifically their scope and cost.  His decline had been slow, over ten years.  It was so gradual that we got used to it as if that’s how life were and would be, never imagining it would worsen, or how much so.  Once we moved, his failing condition accelerated to the point it demanded significant attention.  I was a deer in the headlights.

Daddy ended up needing help with everything.  He needed assistance getting in and out of bed, getting in and out of a chair, his personal grooming.  As my dad’s decline progressed, he could not go from lying to sitting without support.  This man, who used to jog around Rice University, ride horses, perform puppet shows, magic acts and walk on stilts, could no longer walk, even with help.  He required aid for the most intimate of activities.

I share this because I believe we need a shift in our cultural conversation about aging, its needs and its costs. I want us to talk about getting older and plan for it.  My dad’s care was $5,000 per month.  We can never plan for everything; life will make sure of that. But we can and must do better.

Like it or not, life requires financial resources.  We need to plan and save.  Starting early is better than starting late.  Starting any time is better than never starting.   Saving and planning require discipline and courage.  There are so many distractions.  Some are unavoidable (accidents and illness).  Some we should just say no to (that really cute dress, the awesome seats for the game, the extra $22 a month for the leather seats).  I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself or ever indulge.  I’m saying think long term as well.  Then start preparing with long term care insurance or other insurance products and saving, saving, saving.

For most of my dad’s life, he lived for and genuinely delighted in the pleasure the moment brought.  We remodeled our home, added a swimming pool, always had dogs, eventually horses.  My father enjoyed every bit of it.  We all did. We wanted for nothing and had a gorgeous growing up.   What my dad didn’t do and what we didn’t do as a family was plan.  Hence, the deer in the headlights where this chapter begins.

How we save, prepare and spend now can have profound impact on how we live later.  And later always comes. So please, please plan now.

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