Lessons Learned from Bruce Willis


Lessons Learned from Bruce Willis

One of the news headlines recently, was about a childhood hero of mine in the movie industry – Bruce Willis. I believe he had some deep-rooted influence on my decision to eventually join the military. Last year, Bruce Willis was having some aphasia issues, where he experienced problems speaking and difficulty in comprehending certain things. Now it appears that his aphasia was caused by what’s called Frontotemporal dementia – a really aggressive form of dementia. 

Reading the article was a wake up call, because Bruce Willis is the tough guy, and nobody expects this to happen to tough guys.  One of the crazy things about this particular ailment compared to Alzheimer’s disease, is that it actually affects people at a younger age, before the age of 60. One of the biggest challenges is with communication. It has been my experience when working with clients who deal with this, that it also creates challenging behavioural issues. The afflicted person no longer behaves the way they used to. This often it causes them to do things out of character – saying and doing hurtful things to their loved ones. This is difficult not only for the patient, but also for the family taking care of them.

The Guilt is Real

I have never met a person who didn’t feel guilty when their sick spouse went to a nursing home. They feel guilt because they are not able to be the dedicated caregiver any longer. They should take comfort knowing that the nursing home placement is in the best interests of the sick spouse. Unlike Alzheimer’s, for which there are some treatments to slow down the progression of the disease, sadly there’s not much that can help a person who has Frontotemporal dementia. 

I’ve shared on the radio show many times, that the reason I do what I do is because my grandfather was an Alzheimer’s patient. He ended up having to go to a nursing home where he lived for 10 years. Based on today’s rates around Pennsylvania, nursing homes cost around $14,000 a month. When you multiply $14,000 a month by 12, that comes to $160,000 a year for care in a nursing home. Imagine paying that for 10 years! Our government and our healthcare system is failing seniors, because you don’t get any financial help for long term care until you’re essentially broke. 

Medicare Only Covers Acute Care

Both dementia and cancer are terrible diseases, and one cannot compare them. However, if somebody who cancer and is over 65 years old, their care is largely paid for by Medicare which covers acute care. Medications, surgeries and hospitalization to treat a cancer patient, will be paid for by Medicare. Most seniors rely on Medicare for their health care, not realizing that if they need long term care in a nursing home, Medicare won’t pay for that. We’re treating people with dementia differently than those with cancer, which doesn’t seem fair. We should be taking care of our seniors when they are sick, regardless of their ailments, but nobody is going to fix this problem. 

Nobody is Immune

My heart goes out to Bruce Willis and his family. A statement that was issued by his family said that they hope that by releasing the news, it causes awareness of the disease. Hopefully it also leads to more research. For me this highlights the fact that we’re not immune to these things. Dementia is not something that only happens to people 85 years and older – it happens to the tough guys too. We can’t prevent the likelihood of getting dementia, but we can plan for this possibility and protect our assets and our families.

How We Can Help You

I often have families come to my office in this situation, where they’ve had a nursing home admission for a loved one. They are paying privately and they’re spending a lot of money on care. They come to us wanting to know if there is anything we can do to protect their assets. In the case of a married couple, the husband might be the one in the nursing home while the wife, in her 60’s, is healthy and living at home. She may live another 30 years but her sick husband needs custodial long term care for years. This care costs them money, leaving the health spouse in a precarious financial position. 

Most American Baby Boomers own their money in two places – in their home equity and in retirement accounts. Retirement accounts are individually owned so when the husband passes away, he leaves it to his spouse and it becomes her account. It often happens that couples have their investments in the husband’s name, since he was probably the higher wage earner. However, if he gets sick with dementia, and needs long term care, the funds in the retirement account become available to pay the nursing home. In addition to paying $14,000 a month for long term care, he is also paying income taxes to get the money out of the retirement account. This is the reason people are going broke. 

Come to Our 3 Secrets Workshop

To learn more about what you can do to protect assets, I suggest you come to one of our 3 Secrets Workshops. At the workshop, we talk about long term care, and estate planning tools like wills and trusts. While we recommend using trusts, not every trust protects assets. That is why you need to work with a qualified elder law attorney who knows what they’re doing. 

Estate Planning is Affordable

Don’t let the perceived cost of doing estate planning be one of the reasons that you don’t do estate planning.  Sechler Law Firm offers planning which is more reasonably priced. Once you realize what is involved with taking steps to protect yourself, your funds and your family, you won’t delay doing estate planning. You can sleep at night knowing that if you get sick which you can’t prevent, your spouse still has a home to live in. Also, there’s money in the bank for your spouse, and your kids will also still receive an inheritance. You’ve earned your retirement, having worked for 40-50 years. You’ve worked hard to save money, and you don’t want to lose that money to a nursing home.

Register on our website for our 3 Secrets Workshop – sechlerlawfirm.com/workshops.