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Helen and Dick Pell met on a blind date in 1975 and married the next year. They ran several businesses together, acted in community theater, lived on a sailboat, and traveled the world. “My gal was always witty and up for whatever crazy adventures I came up with,” says Dick.
Now, four years after Helen was diagnosed with dementia, she’s physically robust, but her mental abilities have declined. Unable to remember incidents that happened only moments earlier, she still has a sense of humor, says Richard, “but only in the immediate.” She can get lost in her own home. She no longer remembers how to use a toaster or a light switch.
Dick wants them to keep living together at their home in Sarasota, but given his own health problems—he has a heart condition—he foresees he won’t always be able to care for her. That would mean moving Helen to a nursing home.
Helen, 79, has a long-term care policy, and Dick, 82, has investments of nearly $1 million—65% in U.S. stocks, the rest in corporate bonds from a single company. But he fears that’s not enough. The average cost of a nursing home with memory care is $6,000 a month in their area, and the LTC policy’s benefit is capped at $150,000. “The financing of her care is a constant worry,” he says.
Advice for Dick
- Fix the mix. Dick will soon have to draw on his investments to care for Helen, so he needs a more conservative portfolio, says Jacksonville certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan. She advises he cut the equity stake to 35% and diversify by adding international stocks. Dick should also be diversifying into bond funds or multiple municipal and corporate bonds. Those moves will help protect money he can use to put Helen in an assisted-living facility or a nursing home with memory care. If that money runs out, he can apply for Medicaid on her behalf.
- Protect himself. Dick might one day need care for himself, says McClanahan, so he should formalize his own wishes. Dick and Helen’s children from previous marriages have discussed plans for Helen and Dick to live with them if anything happens to Dick that would prevent him from caring for Helen at home. For now, they think the couple should move to assisted living. But Dick has pushed back. “We live on a beautiful lake. Life is still pretty good right now,” he says. “I am not ready to give this up yet.”