I am a firm believer that witnessing a family member’s painful experience will shape your outlook and prompt you to do everything in your power to protect yourself from experiencing that same pain.

After a lifetime of hard work (and just a few years into retirement), my grandfather had a stroke that paralyzed most of his left side. My grandmother stepped in to assume the caretaker role for the next decade. With only a couple of social security checks coming in, and no real means to hire any additional help, I watched as she grew tired over the years. This was not the life either of them dreamed about for their golden years. I remember after my grandfather was gone how my grandmother had a guilty feeling of relief. She was sad that her life partner wasn’t around, but he really wasn’t present all those years anyway. She needed some time for herself.

My parents took steps in the mid-2000s to mitigate some of that longevity/morbidity risk by purchasing their own long-term care policies. Seeing that pain in the family definitely was a contributing factor. They have mentioned on more than one occasion that they don’t want to be a burden to their kids. I would do anything to help them should they need it, but it’s important to realize that having these policies also provides a way for them to preserve their dignity.

A long-term care policy is not only a way to retain assets, but it also can allow each person the freedom to choose the care they want

They’d really like to stay in their home should they need assistance. If that time comes, maybe a nurse visits the house a few times a week to help either one of them get a much-needed break. Even this simple step can have a huge effect, as I’ve seen the eyes of many caretakers that speak volumes to how exhausted they feel.

My wife and I already have our own long-term care policies, and soon our policies will be paid-up. Our benefits will continue to compound, keeping up with future long-term care costs. The landscape has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years, with many different options to cover those future risks.

The unintended legacy my grandparents left me was the wisdom to protect my family should we need care. Like them, I don’t want my wife or myself to be a burden to others in our family. Life experiences are almost always a catalyst to action, as a way of minimizing or avoiding future pain. My hope is that you, too, will take steps to protect yourself and your family from the future cost of care.