Thursday, January 26, 2017

5 things life insurance companies don't always tell you

A life insurance policy can be the difference between financial security and disaster for families whose primary bread-winner passes away unexpectedly. 

A significant loss of income can leave uninsured families struggling to pay bills, including final expenses. This is particularly serious when you consider that nearly half of all Americans don't have enough emergency savings to cover three months worth of expenses, and more than a quarter have no emergency funds at all, according to a Bankrate survey.

Still, life insurance isn't the answer to all of life's financial challenges, especially if you buy a policy without fully understanding how it works, or what life insurance can and can't do for you.

Here are five things your life insurance company won't always tell you about life insurance:


1. Not everyone needs life insurance.

While most people can probably benefit from having life insurance, it's not for everyone.
For example, most financial experts agree the majority of people don't need to buy life insurance for their kids. The purpose of life insurance is basically to: replace lost income (most kids have no income); pay final expenses (they're likely to be manageable); or accrue cash value. You may think a whole life policy could give your child money toward his or her education once the policy matures.
However, there are other ways to save for a college education that offer tax benefits a whole life policy doesn't.

Likewise, if you're a young worker with no dependents and no debt, you might not need life insurance right now. You could put what you'd spend on premiums into your retirement savings. Or, if you're older with no dependents and already have a legacy set aside for your descendants, you might choose other types of investments.

However, anyone who has debt and dependents could probably benefit from having life insurance protection.

2. Online tools can help you figure out how much life insurance you really need.


Years ago, people relied on their insurance agent or company to advise them on how much life insurance to buy. The internet has made it easy to know exactly how much death benefit you really need.

Online tools and "robot advisors" have become very useful resources for helping consumers figure out how much life insurance is appropriate for their unique circumstances. A quick web search for "life insurance calculator" will yield numerous results, including calculators not provided by insurance companies or anyone in the insurance industry. For example, personal finance websites Yahoo Finance and Nerd Wallet both offer life insurance calculators.

3. No single "best" type of policy fits everyone.


Life insurance comes in three basic types: term (the cheapest kind, it has an end date), whole (costs more, has no end date, accrues cash value and premiums are fixed) and universal (also permanent and accrues, but with premiums that can vary). Insurance agents are happy to sell you any kind of policy, but of course their commission rewards are greatest when they can sell you more expensive policies.
Each type of life insurance has advantages and drawbacks for different people, depending on a lot of factors like your age, health, why you need life insurance, and how long you need it. To ensure you're getting the best value, understand the policy and how it works for you before you buy.

4. Your term life policy doesn't (always) have to end.


Term life is cheapest because it has a definitive end date. Term life aims to provide insurance for when you most need it, such as until your kids finish college. However, most term policies sold today are convertible - at the end of the initial term you can either continue with a new term (at a higher rate), or convert the term policy to whole life (also at a higher rate).

5. You may be able to sell your term policy for cash.


If you're a senior and you own a convertible term policy that will soon expire, you may think your choices are limited simply because there was no "cash value" built up in the policy over the years. Your life insurance company is unlikely to tell you otherwise and, in fact, many insurers prevent their agents from informing you of any alternatives to either letting the policy expire or converting it to a more expensive new policy. But the truth is that you may be able to unlock the value in your policy by selling it to outside investors for a lump-sum cash payment.

According to the Life Insurance Settlement Association, in the right situation, a policyholder can turn a term life policy into cash in their hands, provided that it is able to be converted to a new policy and has a death benefit of at least $100,000. By selling your life insurance policy, you can avoid higher premium costs and generate some cash to help fund your retirement.

- Article courtesy of BPD

Monday, January 23, 2017

Changing the end-of-life care conversation

Having a conversation about end-of-life care and advance directives may not be the easiest conversation you'll ever have, but it is one of the most important.

Hospice and palliative care services help people with illnesses no longer responding to curative treatment face death on their own terms, most often at home or in a familiar setting. No matter where a person chooses to receive these services, hospice staff can guide them and their families through difficult decisions surrounding end-of-life care.

Many families feel overwhelmed when told by a physician that a loved one has six months or less to live. A physician may use the terms "palliative care" or "hospice care," which often raises questions about the details regarding these services.

Both hospice and palliative care are patient- and family-centered health care options that address physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Hospice is limited to terminally ill patients who meet Medicare's eligibility requirements and focuses on enhancing comfort and quality of life during the final months of life - without curative intent. Palliative care is available regardless of the diagnosis and may or may not include curative options along with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. Families of patients in hospice care gain access to caregiver education and training, help with difficult decisions, respite care, and bereavement services, among others.

There is no "One size fits all"

Hospice and palliative care can be delivered at home, in a nursing home, a dedicated hospice facility or an acute care hospital. These services have come a long way since the first U.S. hospice facility opened in Branford, Connecticut in 1974.

According to Joseph Shega, MD, senior vice president and national medical director for VITAS Healthcare, the nation's leading provider of end-of-life care, "we started as pioneers in this area of health care about four decades ago and it has been gratifying to see how the practice of hospice and palliative care has truly transformed the way people think about and manage end-of-life experiences." He explains that "it's so important to preserve comfort, respect and dignity in the face of terminal illness."

A growing number of Americans are choosing to access hospice services, which are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance. In 2014, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) reported nearly 2 million Americans received hospice care, and according to AARP, among those 50 to 64 years old, 71 percent want to "age in place," in their own homes. When people are in control of where and how they face the end-of-life, they can focus more time on experiencing meaningful moments with loved ones.  A monitored medical alert system can help a loved one live at home longer, with the ability to get help at the press of a button in an emergency.

How to start "The conversation"

If you were unable to speak for yourself, do your loved ones know what kind of medical care you would want? Do you know what they would want?

Despite the topic's importance, only 27 percent of Americans report having talked with their families about end-of-life care. The best way to make your medical wishes known is to create an advance directive and share it with your family and your doctor.

Have the conversation and don't wait for a crisis. Failing to communicate healthcare choices can lead to anguish, family conflicts and unintended costs that can result when patients no longer can tell their loved ones what kind of care or which "heroic measures" they would accept or reject.

Talk to your loved ones-briefly, in depth, frequently, lightly, seriously-about your wishes. We suggest using milestone events-wedding, anniversary, birthday, retirement, graduation, downsizing move, family holiday-to hold "what if" conversations with loved ones. Keep it light but heartfelt. You may be surprised: letting your loved ones know your wishes could start a frank conversation among the generations about terminal illness, funerals, religious beliefs and other end-of-life concerns.

If you or a loved one is ready to talk about end-of-life care options or would like to find out more about hospice care or how to start the conversation, VITAS can help.
Visit www.vitas.com/hospicemonth or call 1-877-531-6798.

- Article courtesy of BPD

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What to do when a senior loved one wanders

Virtually all parents have experienced the terror of looking up from what they were doing only to realize their child has wandered off. 

Your pulse races, your heart pounds and you can't relax until your child is back in sight. As children grow up, they learn to stay put - or at least let you know where they're going - and your fears fade.

However, if you become a caregiver for a parent, grandparent or other loved one with dementia, you may find yourself having the same fear if your loved one begins to exhibit a concerning symptom of dementia - getting lost or wandering.

The Alzheimer's Association says six out of 10 people with Alzheimer's experience episodes of wandering. The behavior can take many forms, from leaving the house without telling anyone to leaving and then becoming too disoriented to find their way home. Wandering can also occur at night, when a person with Alzheimer's gets out of bed and wanders inside the house - or more concerning, goes outdoors - in the dark.

"Wandering is one of the potentially most dangerous symptoms of dementia," says Juliet Holt Klinger, senior director of dementia care for Brookdale Senior Living. "The Alzheimer's Association notes that up to half of those who wander will suffer serious injury, or even die, if not found within 24 hours. It's important for caregivers to understand why and how wandering happens, when it occurs and what they can do to prevent or minimize occurrences."

Why wandering occurs

To understand why your loved one may be wandering, look for a pattern, Holt Klinger advises. Does he wander at a particular time of day or night? Is she trying to communicate with you? Do they have an unmet physical or psychological need, like being hungry or thirsty, or feeling lonely? Is an undiagnosed medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection, prompting the person to get out of bed at night?

Sleep patterns change as we age, and those changes can be pronounced and concerning for people with dementia. Your loved one may get up during the night because he or she has trouble sleeping. People with Alzheimer's may wake in the middle of the night and get confused, thinking that it is time to get up and go somewhere, such as work or running errands.

Wandering safety tips

Observing when and why your loved one wanders can help you take steps to keep him or her safe. Common coping strategies for night-time wandering include:

  • Help people with Alzheimer's differentiate between day and night by making sure they're exposed to plenty of natural light during the day. This can help circadian rhythms that dementia disrupts and age-related changes in sleep patterns.
  • Encourage at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, but not within four hours of bedtime. Exercise can keep people more awake and alert during the day, and promote better sleep at night.
  • Discourage daytime sleeping by keeping people with Alzheimer's engaged in meaningful activity. Allow a good balance between activities and rest.
  • Avoid serving alcohol, caffeine or large meals as bedtime approaches.
  • Encourage a bathroom visit right before bedtime.
  • Avoid screen time (white light) directly prior to bedtime and use amber colored night lights which do not disrupt REM sleep patterns.
  • Practice relaxation methods like a short, light massage, warm bath, hot milk or herb tea, or reading aloud. These activities are soothing and can help a person calm down for better sleep.
  • For extreme wandering concerns, consider investing in a medical alert monitoring system that will alert you when a loved one gets out of bed at night.

For daytime episodes of wandering, try:


  • Hiding car keys. This can prevent loved ones from leaving the house, getting in the car and losing their way. If your loved one's car operates with a key fob, removing the battery or distributor cap may be another option.
  • Keeping doors locked. Some people with Alzheimer's are unable to operate locked doors. At the very least, a locked door may provide a delay long enough for a caregiver to intervene.
  • Equipping doors with an alarm to signal when it is opened. This can be as simple as putting a bell on the door.
  • Staving off wandering impulses by taking your loved one for frequent walks outdoors.
  • Occupying your loved one with a relatable, doable task that provides a sense of purpose. For example, if someone worked in an office, give her papers to organize. If he loves animals, have him brush the dog.

"Sometimes, despite your best efforts and precautions, wandering can remain a concern," Holt Klinger says. "If that happens, it may be time to consider a move to a senior living community that specializes in caring for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. Brookdale's Clare Bridge communities are secured and designed to promote a sense of independence, safety and purpose."

- Article courtesy of BPT