Ep. 06: – Caring for an Aging Spouse

Brighter Wealth Retirement

 

>>Devin Peterson (00:00):

Hello and welcome back to Brighter Retirement Radio. I’m your host Devin Peterson and in today’s episode, number six, our topic is caring for an aging spouse. Now, this topic is very dear to my heart and absolutely important in your retirement planning and so I brought on a good friend of mine, Janice Smith. Her and her husband and family have been friends of mine for over five years and over those years I have been inspired not only with her kindness, humor and the desire for continuous community service, but also how she approached and shouldered the challenge for caring for her aging husband Ken, throughout several years of declining mental and physical health. So as I sat down and consider this topic for you, my audience, naturally Janice came to mind and I feel privileged to have this conversation with her today. Before we start this conversation, I do want to make a little bit of commentary of why this is such an important topic because for you as a charitable boomer, whether you’re caring for one or both of your aging parents or potentially or foresee caring for one of your spouses, you might also have a friend with this challenge of taking care of an aging parent or a spouse as well.

>>Devin Peterson (01:15):

This topic touches all of our lives in one way, shape, or form. In fact, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention in my own family, we had the opportunity and blessing of taking care of my grandfather, grandpa Ray in our home for the last eight years of his life. We had many ups and downs. It was a beautiful experience. It was a painful experience, but it absolutely affected our lives. And my dear mother Val that took care of my grandfather for all those years, her space in heaven is locked and loaded. I guarantee it because it is a challenge. However, in this episode we wanted to make sure we talked about two aspects of caring for an aging spouse. We want to talk about the emotional considerations that come along with this experience as well as the financial considerations.

>>Devin Peterson (02:04):

Now let me tell you what this episode is not. This episode is not a boring financial conversation about longterm care insurance and premiums and waiting periods and activities of daily living. I didn’t want to get in to a lot of the technicalities there, but we do touch on the financial considerations of facility care and in home health care. However, what I feel like the highlights of this conversation with Janice are is actually the emotional considerations from a spouse taking care of a loved one, and so we’ll get to that. But I really believe that there is so much that can be learned from others’ experiences. So listen up as you consider how to improve your own ability to care for an aging family member by listening to Janice’s experience. Now, the final takeaway that I want you to really gain towards the end of this episode is this idea that you do not have to hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance. There is no shame in seeking additional help, particularly early on. One common thing that I see among a lot of my clients is the more independent spouse that’s caring for that loved one really wants to maintain that independence and take care of them on their own as long as they can. And there’s inherently nothing wrong with that.

However, what we see a lot of times is that comes at the sacrifice of their own physical and mental health. So seeking additional assistance early on is very important and is the primary takeaway that I want you to have from this episode. So it can save your health. It can also save your finances and wait for the part where Janice mentions that.

>>Devin Peterson (03:51):

So I’m absolutely looking forward to this conversation with Janice Smith and sharing it with you. I’m so grateful to be here. And without further ado, here’s my interview with Janice.

>>Devin Peterson (04:03):

Hello and welcome. I’m excited today to interview my good friend Janice Smith. Janice, how are you doing this morning?

>>Janice Smith (04:09):

I’m doing well, thank you. I’m enjoying this cold weather.

>>Devin Peterson (04:11):

It is a bit chilly outside, isn’t it? I’m glad we can snuggle up in this nice office in here. Yeah. Well I’m excited for our conversation today. You’ve been my friend since 2014 when we met and I first got to know you and Ken. And then over the years I’ve seen you do something quite courageous and that’s actually what we want to talk about today, which is caring for an aging spouse.

>>Janice Smith (04:41):

It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s nice to have them with you but sometimes it gets tough.

>>Devin Peterson (04:50):

Absolutely. I just want to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about you and your family so our listeners can kind of understand where you’re coming from and absolutely your story will come out as we have our conversation today.

>>Janice Smith (05:05):

Well, brief introduction. We’re a blended family. Ken and I were married in 1985. I had three children with me and he had four children with him. We had been married for four years and a surprise came into our lives. We had a child born who is now 29 years old. And just blessed us with our most recent grandchild. So that was an interesting experience. I didn’t know him obviously when he was a young man and not until he was much older. He was 10 years older than me, which didn’t seem strange at the time because he was a very young man and appeared that way and acted that way. He went on scout trips and things with his sons and I actually realized as we got older and especially as his health was getting bad, I was glad that I was 10 years younger because if I have been in my eighties when he was in his eighties and having bad health, it would have been much more difficult.

>>Devin Peterson (06:11):

It was a good marriage, a good match. So blended family, his, yours and one his, yours and ours. And your youngest is now 29 years old. Okay, nice. And a wonderful family. I’ve met a lot of them.

>>Janice Smith (06:28):

They’re wonderful. They’re very supportive and I love family.

>>Devin Peterson (06:33):

Yeah. Awesome. Well, I’ll kind of start it off. When I first met you back in 2014 I had met you and Ken and sat down with the both of you and kind of started doing some planning. That’s where I noticed Ken and saw his fun personality. So my first experiences of Ken were not jump out of your seat active, but really witty, really funny, really smiley, very kind and patient. And then that was in 2014 and then he passed away in 2018 right. So four years later. So here today we want to talk about working with and

supporting an aging spouse. So kind of walk us through that timeline and share with us a little bit about what your story is.

>>Janice Smith (07:23):

Okay. Just to back up a little bit, he did suffer a stroke in about 2004. It was in the brainstem and caused him to have balance difficulties and difficulty swallowing, which by a miracle he was able to recover.

After that, I noticed that his thinking was kind of different in the sense that we’d be talking about something and then just kind of out of left field he would start talking about something else, just kind of disconnected. So I did some research into hyperbaric treatment and we did some hyperbaric treatment and it seemed to me that that helped his brain function. It was a very subtle thing.

>>Devin Peterson (08:08):

Was that in hospital or any doctor visit?

>>Janice Smith (08:11):

It was a clinic that we visited. It was not covered by insurance, so we just paid for it out of pocket, but I felt it was worth it. So then we moved to Utah from LA in 2013. And I can tell it his memory was kind of slipping a little bit. And I was concerned having gone through 15 years of Alzheimer’s with my mother, which is an unusual long time, but she was very healthy physically. She was actually in assisted living for 15 years until she died at 98. Incredible. I learned a lot from that experience. As you can imagine. And so I took him to the University of Utah Neurology Department and had him tested and they did a lot of hours of testing and came back with a diagnosis of Vascular Dementia with an Alzheimer’s components. The vascular dementia being on the brain MRI, they could detect little places where there had been bleeds that had destroyed some of the cells around. It was not anything physical that obviously in the memory area. And so that was mild at that point. And they followed him for about a year. And I think the last time we went there they said he has mild dementia and call us if you have any problems. There’s was nothing they could do for it.

>>Devin Peterson (09:43):

So it was kind of put the ball in your court. At that point, what was the doctor or the hospital’s perspective? Was there any training or resources or did they send you home with a workbook and said, this is how you work with an aging spouse?

>>Janice Smith (09:56):

Not specifically. I believe there were resources recommended, but I kind of felt like I knew what I was doing.

>>Devin Peterson (10:06):

Okay. You had some confidence there.

>>Janice Smith (10:10):

Having observed my mother for all those years and with my sister talking about dealing with memory problems, I kind of learned some tricks of the trade and sort of knew what to expect and how to deal with it. I wasn’t coming into it blind in other words. I know I had been aware of that. And then within the next year, his memory just really declined rapidly until I think I wrote down by 2016 he basically remembered me and not much more. Sometimes he’d say, I’d mentioned something about children and he say, I have children. Well, we don’t remember that part in life.

>>Devin Peterson (10:56):

Yeah, that’s a quick decline. So basically within two to three years he went from every once in a while in a conversation, randomly changed the topic awkwardly to not remembering anything but about spouse.

>>Janice Smith (11:09):

It was very rapid. It surprised me because my mother’s experience had been so, so different with the Alzheimer’s here. Her memory loss was very slow, very, very slow decline. So that was difficult to deal with.

>>Devin Peterson (11:25):

Now in this, in this time period, this whole time you’ve been taking care of Ken at home. Oftentimes, and I believe a lot of our listeners can probably relate to this, whether it’s their own parents or a current aging spouse. There comes a time where there’s this awkward transition or this hard decision that needs to be made from transitioning from home care to facility care. How did you cope with that? How did you go through that? How did you make that decision and when did that happen?

>>Janice Smith (11:58):

That is a big challenge and one of the concerns was because of his physical health. We had a home health nurse coming and she said, if you’re going to do some kind of care you don’t want to put it off too long. Because if he gets to the point where he needs like two people to lift him, he won’t qualify to be in an assisted living, he’ll need to be in a more expensive kind of facility. So I kind of had to kind of plan ahead.

>>Devin Peterson (12:23):

I’ve actually never heard that before, but that absolutely makes sense. Because in most qualifications there’s these things called activities of daily living. And to qualify for most longterm and longterm care insurances or longterm plans, you need to just not be able to perform two of those. Right?

>>Janice Smith (12:46):

Like if you need help bathing, if you need help managing your money, if you need help being fed, if you need assistance cleaning. Yeah. Things like that. If it’s physical where they just need to have more people to assist, if he’s already in the facility, like assisted living, they won’t kick him out. So actually my mother assisted me with this decision as it happened because in 2017, so that was the year before Ken passed away, she was in Southern California and I got a call from my sister saying, mommy isn’t swallowing and she probably won’t live for another week. So I needed to be in California. And I’d been thinking, you know what, what will I do with my husband? I’d been wanting to go down anyway to miss my kids and I couldn’t travel with them anymore. So to have someone come into the house, do I try to get him in the respite care? For a few weeks you can get into an assisted living place without a full time commitment. And I needed someone like yesterday and this home health care nurse had suggested a place here in Lehigh within five minutes drive of my house. And I went over and checked and they haven’t had one bed available, and he could move in the next day so I could be on my flight to California. So that was the thing that eased the immediate decision of getting into a system.

>>Devin Peterson (14:21):

The circumstance of I need to do it. So it might’ve been a decision that you’ve delayed to that point for many months. Possibly. I’m sure you thought about it for a long time.

>>Janice Smith (14:31):

I had because for one thing it was getting, he was tall, he was almost six feet tall and I’m five two so he was a big man and there were a couple of times when I was trying to assist him in and out of the shower. His physical health was getting bad and his balance was not good. His legs were not strong. A couple of times we almost tipped together out of shower into the basement area. It was becoming a little bit of a physical concern. Yeah. And to balance that you think, well I should be taking care at home because he is my husband. Should I have someone come in the house? You have all those concerns.

>>Devin Peterson (15:11):

I can absolutely see the emotional decision that went into that. A bit about my experience with taking care of an aging spouse. It wasn’t my spouse, it was actually my grandfather that lived in our home in Highland for the last eight or so years of his life. And I saw firsthand my parents take care of my grandfather and it did go through that same type of digression of health, physical health. It went from Grandpa Ray being very able to take care of himself, his hygiene, his bathing, to a point where, my parents were having to really help him with that, which made it difficult for my mom and for my dad. Which ultimately led to their decision to put him into it an assisted home.

>>Janice Smith (15:58):

Now, I was thinking too, one thing that I didn’t have a concern about, often times people with Dementia will wander and you put extra locks on the door and be worried about them at night because they tend to be up at night. Because of his physical health I didn’t worry about him wandering and he hadn’t been driving for quite a long time. So I didn’t worry about him getting in the car and taking off. That was something that people sometimes have to worry about.

>>Devin Peterson (16:49):

So kind of coming back to the transition between home care and facility care, before I ask a few questions about facility care, I’d love to know a little bit more about how you really helped Ken at home, what did that look like? Did you feel like, because he was at home, you were doing all of the meal preparation, all the cleaning, everything? Did you feel like you could get out and do what you needed to do shopping, social events, or did you feel like you were at home a lot more than you wanted to?

>>Janice Smith (17:21):

I’m smiling because one thing I remember is that he developed some Paranoia. Like, I would go out to shop for 10 minutes and he would come back and say where have you been in, you’ve been gone for four hours, you have a boyfriend, blah, blah, blah. Because of the memory loss, he had no sense of time. And so he had no way of telling how long I’d been gone. So that was kind of a problem. For social things, we’d often go to church and to family activities and things together. So we were able to do that. So long ago, years ago, kind of put it out of my mind, I guess. He was was physically able to get around the house and such so that I was able to go out and go shopping or things like that.I don’t remember feeling really confined in the house. I know people frequently do.

>>Devin Peterson (18:37):

So you didn’t have any of those feelings of missing out?

>>Janice Smith (18:46):

I don’t recall. I don’t really recall that because as I said, I could still take him with me places. He just would kind of be a little vacant.

>>Devin Peterson (18:54):

So as you made that transition from home care, it sounds like you did it like a champ. I felt like you need a big, you need to flex your muscle layer and say good job. Wow.

>>Janice Smith (19:06):

As I say, the move was kind of forced upon me. It was blessedly. When I came back, I was actually gone a total of four weeks, but because my mom rallied and then she passed away and then I helped my sister with all the arrangements. So I was actually gone for weeks. And so coming back I thought, okay, if I bring him back into the home now or do I keep him in assisted living? Because I had been thinking about the need for it and it seemed a good situation for him and I just thought, it’s really time to have him with having that care just for both of us.

>>Devin Peterson (19:42):

So let’s kind of shift to having the conversation about now that he’s in a facility, what was his initial experience? I hear a lot of times from the spouses that take their spouse to the facility, there’s a lot of pushback, there’s a lot of resistance, there’s a lot of resentment or anger or frustration or confusion. Was there any of that that you or your family experienced or did he just step in like this is my new home?

>>Janice Smith (20:12):

I think some of both. I’m just pulling up some memories. Like he’d say to me, aren’t married people supposed to be living in the same place? Why am I hear and you’re someplace else?But then I would take him home to the house for meals or for family get togethers or just bring him home on Sunday afternoon for meals. And he’d walk in and say, oh, this is a nice place, where he didn’t even recognize the home that we lived in for at that time, a number of years. So, his memory was far enough gone that he recognized that something was wrong.

>>Devin Peterson (20:50):

There’s like a subconscious thought of spouses should live together and you’re not here, but, yet he wasn’t really fighting it. I’ve heard some other stories. So in the facility, now that he’s there, how as a spouse, how do you show up and support a spouse? What did that look like with your experience? Were you there just a few times a week or every day? All day?

>>Janice Smith (21:22):

I wouldn’t say that I got there every day, but several times a week. And sometimes I’d have meals with him. Sometimes I’d pick him up and take him shopping with me or we’d go to Ashton Gardens and walk through the gardens. Me sometimes pushing him in a wheelchair when he got to that point. But I tried to interact with him as much as I could and he was always mostly glad to see me.

>>Devin Peterson (21:48):

You say that with a smile. Do you have a story that goes behind that?

>>Janice Smith (21:52):

I would say maybe 80% of the time he recognized me and I recall one time I went to pick him up. We were going to go to Ashton Gardens to meet my daughter-in-law and children there. And I walked in and he looks at me and he said, I’m not going with you, I only go with my wife. Well he and one of the caregivers and me, tried to convince him that I was his wife and he wasn’t having any of it. I realized I didn’t have my phone with me. So I drove back to my house, which is just five minutes away and the facility was on my way to Ashton Gardens. So I thought, well, I’ll just stop in and see what the memory is now. I walked in and he said to me, there’ve been three women here trying to get me to go with them. Well I won’t go with anybody.

>>Devin Peterson (22:37):

So in that short amount of time he went from not recognizing you and only wanting to leave with his wife.

>>Janice Smith (22:54):

I would say that one of the things you have to have is a sense of humor. I would say make new memories, like these funny little things that I remember. You have to kind of forget. You have to have a memory loss yourself when you’re dealing with someone who has an immune loss in the sense that your loved one is in a new place. Oftentimes they don’t remember any more than two minutes ago and you just have to go with that. Just live in the moment with them and enjoy the moment.

>>Janice Smith (23:36):

With with my mother. I remember my sister kept a little diary of funny things my mom would say in relation to her memory loss and she shared them with us us at my moms memorial. They were so fun and I wish I had done more of that with Ken, just like this little one about not recognizing me and then recognizing me again because they can be bits of humor that you share.

>>Devin Peterson (23:57):

Janice, I think that is a great point of wisdom that you just shared where you almost need to have a little bit of memory loss yourself because your life is different, your relationship is different and I think that the quicker that we can come to that realization, we can kind of let go of expectations of what has been and move into a space of what might be and the adventure of that. So having a memory loss yourself.

That’s really insightful, thank you for sharing that.

>>Janice Smith (24:27):

With my mom, because her memory loss went over such a long time and we kind of lost mom a long time ago and then we had this new relationship with this new mother that she still had her funny sense of humor and her sweet personality. She just didn’t remember most things.I’d say to her, I’m your daughter and she was remembering when she was a child and she think, I’m a kid, how can I have a daughter? I realized that’s where her or her thought patterns were. And so that explained our relationship. And so I learned to deal with that with Ken.

>>Devin Peterson (25:00):

As we’re having this conversation, a story that you shared with me several years ago came to mind and I would love for you to kind of retell that if you would. I remember you telling me that you went to go visit Ken and he did not remember you as his wife. You came back and you were just introducing you as his friend and you could sit down and have a conversation that way instead of the awkward confrontation or try to convince him that you’re married.

>>Janice Smith (25:33):

You can’t convince them so you just take them from where you are and, and enjoy the conversation. That’s what I say, just enjoy them and sometimes he would come back to it and remember and another time it was just.

>>Devin Peterson (25:46):

So you just introducing yourself as his friend was a way for you, kind of forgetting your past together, putting a smile on of course, but creating a space where this is your new experience.

>>Janice Smith (26:01):

New relationship. Unfortunately the next time he did remember me.

>>Devin Peterson (26:05):

But I love how you approached that. You saw this potential conflict where I know me as a married person, if I went home and my wife was like, I’m not married to you, that would be a point of contention. But I love the way that you approach this experience by just putting on a smile, realizing where you’re at in that moment and stepping into a new experience, not making confrontation about it. And being okay with that. I love that. So now, we’ve been talking about transition from home care into facility care, as Ken digressed there at the facility care, was there any other experiences that he had?

You had talked about in the home, he would never leave. Did he ever leave while he was at the facility.

>>Janice Smith (27:07):

No, he talked about it. He’d say, well, I’m getting out of here. I’m just leaving. I’m not staying here.

>>Devin Peterson (27:17):

So he’s big on talk but not at doing.

>>Janice Smith (27:21):

The caregivers there would sometimes say that he was just going to walk home and I thought, Oh good. He doesn’t even know where it is. But yeah.

>>Devin Peterson (27:30):

So we’ve talked a little bit about that transition. However, I would love to kind of back up and ask you a little bit more personally. How are you feeling? Because I know a lot of our listeners that are choosing to listen to this episode, obviously they saw the title caring for an aging spouse and something triggered within them. Either they’re experiencing that with their spouse or they’re experiencing that with a parent and they’re really just trying to wrap their head around emotionally, spiritually. How do I approach this challenge in life? So I would love if you would share with our listeners. Where were you at?

>>Janice Smith (28:17):

Well the first thing that pops into my mind is that I tried to keep active. For example, independently active sort of. At the time I was doing a lot of research, family history research. So I had names that needed to go to The Temple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint Temple. I found that I could go early in the morning like seven o’clock and be back at nine o’clock and he’d still be asleep and he wouldn’t even notice that I was gone. So this was one way that I could sneak in an activity without any problem. I think that family is really important. We have three of our children of our large family who live here in the Utah Valley. And so we would have family activities together and always had their support around a lot, which is helpful. Yeah. And the grandchildren were really good with him and understood where he was and where he was not.

>>Devin Peterson (29:30):

So for you as you are now becoming more and more of the spouse that was the dependable one that was doing all the housework and the cleaning and the cooking, you did have some help then if you needed some big piece of furniture moved, you would have some of your children close by. If you needed a deep clean, hopefully one of your daughters would come help out. So you weren’t completely on an island.

>>Janice Smith (29:55):

I can see that that would be a real challenge with some people where they don’t have that backup system. Like if we were living across the country and the children weren’t close by or something like that.

>>Devin Peterson (30:06):

So emotionally, losing a spouse to an unexpected accident and passing that is very difficult and very sudden. However, what you went through was this gradual loss of the man that you love, first, mentally and then physically. Emotionally, at what point did you start feeling the grief of your loss? Was it so gradual that it really wasn’t until after his passing and then it wasn’t as big because you’d already kind of grieved along the way?

>>Janice Smith (30:49):

I would say after he passed away a couple of weeks after he had passed away, I realized that having him in assisted living was in a sense of blessing because we had had a year from the time my mother passed away until he passed away that he was in the assisted living where he was not at home all the time. So it wasn’t like one day I woke up and my husband was no longer beside me in bed. It was this kind of gradual, in addition to the memory loss that we were physically separated for a time. So I found that it made the grieving easier. It was not an abrupt change. Like, as you say, if you’ve lost someone because of an accident or you know, sudden heart attack or some other cause of death. That’s a real wrenching thing I think to experience with you, with your children.

>>Devin Peterson (31:48):

Did you see them grieve any differently or do you have any memory of how they went through that grieving process? Did they feel the loss of their father gradually as well?

>>Janice Smith (32:04):

I think they did because they could see, you know, his memory decline and then his physical health failed very rapidly at the very end like within a week. I could tell he was not going to last very long. And so we actually had a really nice experience at the end because I was able to let children who were out of town know that I don’t think he’s going to last until the end of the week. And we had his room full of children and grandchildren for the last two days and we were just sharing memories and singing karaoke songs. I think it was especially good for the grandchildren because they could see that death is not anything to be feared. We were there, grandpa was there and then he was gone and we are sorry that he’s gone. And then we miss him.

>>Devin Peterson (32:52):

But it wasn’t the mysterious, disappearing, sudden dark, always sad, tearful thing. There can be joy in that.

>>Janice Smith (33:03):

And we have happy memories about that time that we spent with him right at the last. With you know, cousins together and aunts and uncles. And that was beautiful. It was a special experience.

>>Devin Peterson (33:15):

That’s beautiful. I had the sacred privilege of attending his funeral. You do have a big family, so it’s fun to see a lot of people, but I love the spirit there. The experience that all of the you were having there wasn’t this heavy feeling of sadness. It was almost a feeling of appreciation for the life that was given and the great stories and smiles that were shared. Now, of course there are tears because being more permanently separated from those that we love is difficult. But I feel like your family has gone through this experience with a bit of joy in your hearts. I believe partly based off what you just shared because you gradually went through this loss and you’re able to experience some loss, but then still give him a hug and then spirits experienced some loss and then physically still have him there. But I also felt like a big part of that is your family’s more eternal perspective of the soul and of our experience with our relationship. So I love that. Thank you for letting me experience that.

>>Janice Smith (34:21):

I don’t know if I should share this. I sometimes get odd thoughts in my head. I told you that Ken was very patient, very loving, very kind and thoughtful always. And a couple of days after, it was actually a couple of days after he passed away, I was just kind of driving mindlessly along the freeway. You know, how you do. And this thought just popped into my head because at the point that he passed away, he had arthritis in his knee, so it hurt him to walk. And so the last month or so he ended up in a wheelchair and he did not like that, but it hurt him to walk. So because he was in the wheelchair required people to lift him and you know, give him all the personal care that he did not like. So this thought came to me, I could just kind of see him saying, heavenly father, I’m not good to anyone down here. I’m a burden to Janice. I’m burden to my children. I think it’s time for me to go back to heaven and I can kind of watch over them from there. It’ll be a much better situation. Now, I don’t know if that was my mind, you know, sort of helping me to get over the grief of it. It would be in character for him to do that because of his such rapid decline. And in fact at the very last, he was kind of hanging on. I thought just let go. And my, one of my sons said, I think he’s waiting for someone. I said, everybody’s here who can be here. One son was at the house, he said, I don’t need to be there when he dies. He finally came up, sat down by his dad, took his hand, and in 10 minutes he was just, he was just gone. So dad was waiting. He was waiting for that, that last son to be there. So it was a good family experience. And I think all of that helps to make the grieving period easier. And then just keeping busy.

>>Devin Peterson (36:22):

Do you mind if we kind of take a little bit of a shift in our conversation and I know a lot of our listeners out there are also concerned with how do I take care of my spouse financially? What does that look like? What I mean, we have all these fears of what longterm care costs between adult daycare and a full time assisted living facility to nursing home facility, and the burden financially that can be on the family.

Which do you want to kind of share with us? What were some of your fears maybe moving into that or what was your approach and how did you go through that?

>>Janice Smith (37:02):

That’s great. I obviously was concerned about that and I thank Devin Peterson for helping me. Because that obviously is a concern and longterm care or care in a facility can be very expensive. And you helped us to manage our retirement money in such a way that there was a little pot set aside to pay for that carefully because we did not have any longterm care insurance. We hadn’t been smart enough to get that right at this point. Ken was in his seventies, late seventies. He was 86 when he passed away. So he was in his early eighties when we first met you.

>>Devin Peterson (37:50):

So at that point, naturally that was about the time that you started to see his memory slip. Now in your early eighties is not a time to go and buy longterm care insurance. Right. And not only would it be extremely expensive, you probably wouldn’t even qualify for it. Right. And so I point that out because buying expensive longterm care insurance is not always an option, right? Not always. Even if it’s not as expensive, it’s not always the best solution either. But you need to be able to kind of roll with what you have, see your resources in front of you, and then make some best decisions on how you’re going to approach some of those longterm care costs. Right? So in your scenario is more of kind of consulting with an advisor to sitting down and saying, here’s what our expenses are, here are some of our savings resources, which ones should we set aside and kind of have intentionally be there for taking care of Ken’s care?

>>Janice Smith (38:47):

That was a big sense of peace and relief for me knowing that if we needed it, there was money there that would help to pay for it because that can be really hard for people who don’t have the resources to be able to get that care.

>>Devin Peterson (39:03):

Right. If you don’t mind me asking, how much was per month, how much was his care? Do you recall?

>>Janice Smith (39:08):

It was $3,500 a month. It was a well cared for place. It was not fancy at all, but it was well recommended to me by this nurse that I respected and she worked there and she said, I won’t work in any place that they don’t take care of. It was a small one that was 16 beds, so they had good, good attention.

>>Devin Peterson (39:34):

A quick side note on that as we’re talking about facilities and expenses and stuff, did it make a big difference for you having it so close to your home? You mentioned it was five minutes away. So that’s something that you would recommend that people find somewhere close that you can visit often.

>>Janice Smith (39:51):

Yeah. It was much easier than the other place that was recommended. It was over 20 minutes away. I mean it’s not that far. I come from LA and my sister used to drive an hour and 15 minutes to get to our mom and she sometimes regretted that it was so far away.

>>Devin Peterson (40:11):

But I feel like a five minute drive makes it easy to stop in and say hi. Not a burden. It’s just really natural part.

>>Janice Smith (40:19):

You don’t have to plan your day around making a visit. You can just stop in and bring them an ice cream cone.

>>Devin Peterson (40:28):

One more financial aspect that I do want to ask about. When we first got together, we had actually had a conversation because Ken was a veteran. We’d had a conversation about taking care of his final expenses and using and leveraging some of the VA benefits and taking the time beforehand to fill out a final wishes organizer, which is at your passing, this is the type of services that I want. This is the kind of funeral that I want. And having that all written down and actually funded. In your case, putting together that prepaid funeral plan, how did that help? Was it additional emotional thing? Was it financial benefit?

>>Janice Smith (41:07):

I’d say all of the above. I knew that he was going to be buried in the veteran’s cemetery, so I didn’t have to scurry around and you know, find that but just had to make a call. And we had the, mortuary all set up, everything was planned. We’d picked out the casket and all the arrangements were made ahead of time. So that didn’t need to be done in the midst of the emotional loss.

>>Devin Peterson (41:32):

And if I’m remembering correctly, I believe when you initially set up your funeral plan, you’d put a payment plan on that and insurance policy. And so by the time you pass away, I think you ended up paying a little bit less than half of what you would have had to pay.

>>Janice Smith (41:50):

I paid on it for two years. And it was scattered out over 10 years.

>>Devin Peterson (41:53):

It doesn’t always happen that way, but I think you came out ahead. But emotionally that always helps when you can understannd whether you’re financial care, financial resources for the facilities taken care of or the final expenses are taken care of. As you can tell from our conversation today, taking care of an aging spouse is not an easy emotional, natural ability that we all have. It’s a very new experience. And so as much of that additional financial burden that you can take off of your shoulders, I encourage you absolutely to do it. Plan ahead. If you’re in your sixties, great. Look at some sort of longterm care insurance or life insurance or annuity that has a longterm care component in there. But plan ahead. Most folks will experience some way, shape or form because we’re living longer these days. And so I believe the statistic is first, for a couple that lives to the age of 65, you have a 75% chance of at least one of those spouses going into a longterm care facility. So those are pretty high percentages. It doesn’t always have to be a fancy plan that’s really expensive as long as you kind of purposely take that into consideration once you’re to a point of taking care of an aging spouse. Just as you had mentioned, that goes a long way to bring some comfort and peace of mind. I wonder if as we start to kind of wrap up this conversation, Janice, is there in your mind, I want you to kind of see some of our listeners, someone that was in your shoes, you know, six, seven, eight years ago dealing with them or anticipating this experience coming into their short term future. Is there any additional insight, comfort, direction, perspective that you’d like to share with them?

>>Janice Smith (44:03):

I wrote down that you have confidenct in planning, which we just talked about, treasuring new memories, being able to look beyond. One thing about that, in our family with my siblings, we have this line that we remember from my dad. My parents lived into their nineties. My dad was 96 when he passed away and he was six years older than my mom. And then she lived beyond him and others. 10 years or something. It was just astonishing. But he had difficulty dealing with a memory loss and he’d say, don’t you remember? And we say, no dad, she doesn’t remember. No dad. She doesn’t remember. He doesn’t remember so don’t sweat it. Don’t be frustrated. It’s just a change. It’s different. And just having patience. There’s a little trick that I learned. I mentioned that he had this paranoia about my boyfriends, that I had many boyfriends and sometimes this would come up late at night and friends are listening to this and so I might spend two hours talking with him and trying to reassure him. I finally got really smart and I say something like, you know, it’s really late and I’m kind of tired. Why dont we talk about it tomorrow? Because by tomorrow, of course he wouldn’t remember. And so that can sometimes help have the memory loss working in your favor. If you get into a difficult situation, say, well, you know, let’s talk about it in an hour or phone’s ringing, got to take the dog for a walk, you know, whatever it is, just break the conversation and come back in.

>>Devin Peterson (46:23):

Take advantage of the memory loss, turn it on its head and turn it into your favor. I love that. Thank you. That helps a lot. So in conclusion, I want to ask a question just about you personally and this is a question that I’ve asked all of my listeners because I feel like it’s so important for us to realize what we can do to stay alive and be relevant. So I’m going to ask you, Janice, what in your life right now, what makes you feel absolutely alive and keeps you very relevant in your community and the world around you?

>>Janice Smith (46:57):

Well, things like tomorrow I get to have a play date with my new granddaughter. It was fun to have a new baby in the family. I actually have a missionary calling now in my church. I’m working in the family history library up in Salt Lake and learning so many new things. Cramming my old brain with lots new things so that when people come into the library looking for help with finding their ancestors, hopefully I can be some help. So it’s kind of a teaching, encouraging, opportunity for me and I’m just thrilled to be doing that. It came at a good time because I realized the past year I become a little bit of a hermit just staying in my home or working at my computer doing this stuff that actually keeps me actively engaged mentally, but not a lot with people. So this is an opportunity to do the same kind of thing, but being out with people.

>>Devin Peterson (48:05):

So being with people, serving, I love that you’re learning and growing. Not slowing down, but learning and growing and moving forward. I love that it’s a great way to stay alive and say absolutely relevant.

>>Janice Smith (48:20):

Well, when I turned 75, I heard the statistic that if you’re 75, you have a very good chance of living to be 95. So I’m planning on it, so I figured I have a lot to do in the next little less than 20 years now.

>>Devin Peterson (48:32):

All right, let’s keep up that pace. I love it. I love it. Well, Janice, thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. It’s been a great pleasure for me to interact with you again. I know over the last several years, we’ve actually had lots of small conversations about your experience, and I was so excited to get you in my office and sit down and have a little bit more of a direct, longer conversation here. So thank you so much for your contribution to our podcast and to those that are listening. Thank you everyone. Have a great day and we will see you on the next episode.