When Doreen Ireland decided to move her ailing mother from London to live with her in Atlanta, Ga., she had no idea how deeply it would affect her life. "With no real planning, I didn't know what the future would look like," says the 48-year-old, single health-care consultant. "It was a big financial responsibility, and nobody gave me any direction. Help just didn't seem to be readily available, and my life became consumed with taking care of my mother."
That was in 2000. Since then, her mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which forced Doreen to make even more changes in her life. "My work can take me away for weeks at a time, but I couldn't leave home without someone to be there with my mother," she says. "That service has a significant financial impact because I have to pay for what Medicaid doesn't cover."
Doreen's road has taken her through anger, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed. But as she gains control over her circumstances at home, she is experiencing a growing sense of responsibility for her own long-term care. "I was carrying a heavy load, at work and at home," she says, "and I was in denial about the need to look at my own long-term care. But in the last three years, I've become much more aware of my retirement needs. Once I passed the 45-year mark, I began to face some real questions about my future. My mother has me. But as a single woman with no children, who will look after me? I can only count on myself to take care of my needs."
As a result, Doreen has short-term and long-term disability insurance, as well as advance directives that will convey her medical wishes to family and friends if she is ever unable to speak for herself. And although she admits to putting off buying long-term care insurance, she'll be meeting with her financial planner in the near future. "It's very easy to fall into the trap that the reason I can't make my own long-term plans is because of my life situation, but I'm not convinced of that," she says. "I still have the responsibility to make decisions for myself and to move forward with my life. That includes continuing to get regular exercise, go to the theater, and entertain friends at home, long-term plans that allow me to create some balance in my life."
For more information about planning for long-term care, visit www.aarp.org/decide. Decide to plan for long-term care, create a plan that works for you, and share it with your loved ones. Let AARP help you Decide. Create. Share.SM
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