For over 30 years, Amy Grant has entertained audiences with her signature blend of pop and gospel music.In May, the Grammy-award winning singer, 52, released her first studio album in 10 years entitled, How Mercy Looks from Here, inspired in part by her recent caregiving experiences with her parents who were both diagnosed with dementia.Grant’s mother, Gloria, died in 2011, and her father, Burton, 81, now requires round-the-clock care.
Today, Grant’s dad has lost much of his vocabulary and memory, and her family’s experiences have inspired Grant to urge other families to plan ahead for unexpected medical events. She recently joined forces with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to record a public service announcement encouraging other baby boomers to begin thinking about how they might pay for long-term care if their parent or spouse becomes ill.
Grant and her sisters watched as their father’s dementia progressed to the point where he was no longer able to live in an assisted-living facility; he now resides in an apartment near Grant’s home, where he receives in-home care.
Married to her second husband, country singer Vince Gill for the past 13 years, Grant, a mom to her blended family of five children who range in age from 12 to 30, never expected to find herself in the ranks of over 42 million Americans who act as caregivers for their loved ones. According a January 2013 study by the Pew Research Center that looked at social and demographic trends, nearly 47 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s care for both an aging parent and a child.
According to the U.S. government website for Medicare, 12 million older Americans will need long-term care by 2020. insuranceQuotes.com recently spoke to Grant about her caregiving experiences and why she recommends having a discussion about end-of-life care before a family member becomes ill.
Why all families should discuss long-term care insurance
How did you and your sisters determine the type of care your parents wanted in the event they couldn’t make decisions for themselves?
It’s a topic that no one wants to think about, and a conversation that no family wants to have, but it’s so important. Fortunately, my father was diligent about setting up his and my mom’s finances to cover end-of-life care.
My three sisters and I also talked to my parents about where they wanted to live, and what kind of care they want to receive when they could no longer make those decisions for themselves. We made sure my parents had a power of attorney in the event they become incapacitated and couldn’t pay their bills.
(My parents) also needed advanced health directives, where they name someone to make health care decisions for them in the event they can’t do this for themselves.
Did having your dad plan ahead help to make the transition easier when your parents were diagnosed with dementia?
Yes - thanks to my dad’s planning, my sisters and I were able to hire professional caregivers. Since we aren’t responsible for the bulk of caregiving, we can focus on spending quality time with our dad. Although he has lost much of his conversation skills, he still enjoys going for drives in the country with us.
Fortunately, the type of dementia that my parents have isn’t hereditary, but it still made me realize that life can provide unexpected moments and that you need to review your parents’ and your own insurance information, long before you think you might need to do so.
For families who are thinking ahead to caregiving in later years, there are many insurance options available including purchasing an annuity (a long-term investment that is issued by an insurer to protect consumers from the risk of outliving their income), additional life insurance or long-term care insurance.
What lessons have you learned caring for your parents?
When my parents were first diagnosed with dementia, we asked, “Why is this happening to our family?” My sisters and I have learned to reframe our experience, to not have any regrets, and to embrace this time as the last great lesson in life that we are learning from our dad.