How does a dentist become the Living Benefits Geek?
"Plan for the worse, hope for the best, your children will thank you for it"
I was born and raised in San Francisco. At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a dentist because I loved science, helping people, and working with my hands. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with degrees in Genetics and Psychology I went on to the Dugoni School of Dentistry (UOP) in San Francisco and later pursed advanced dentistry dealing with jaw pain and full mouth rehabilitation. I also served as a Captain in the Air Force Reserve 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beale Air Force Base.
One day, right after returning from a month in Alabama with the Air Force, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life. An elderly man ran a red light and T-boned my car. It blew out a disc in my back L5-S1, causing tremendous pain in my back and legs. I couldn’t sit or stand comfortably while working on patients.
Four months after the accident, I was no longer able to practice dentistry. It was devastating. Fortunately, I purchased a professional disability policy right out of dental school that allowed my family to stay afloat financially over the years.
I stopped practicing and began working at Invisalign, a dental technology start-up at the time. It was there, that I really began to understand technology companies and began to love everything about the tech industry and Silicon Valley.
Despite the pain, I was managing and looking into back surgery in the hopes of eventually returning to private practice. Then my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer and I had to put my own pain, surgery and basically my entire life on hold. Doctor appointments, chemotherapy, x-rays, CAT scans, and emergency room appointments filled our daily schedules. My wife and I went from being “the kids” to becoming the “caretakers”. Helping my parents with cooking, cleaning, and trying to find alternative treatments to beat the cancer took a tremendous toll.
After 13 months of chemotherapy, Mom was told she was terminal and thus stopped chemo. I was still in substantial pain from my back injury and couldn’t physically take care of her as she needed 24 hour care. We hired a caregiver to feed, bathe, help her to the bathroom, manage her medication, and help keep her comfortable. It was at this point we found out what Long Term Care and Long Term Care Insurance was all about. We wished we had long term care insurance for my mom because in the final 3 months of her life, the 24/7 care costs $50,000. The whole experience was emotionally and financially draining.
After my mom passed away, I had back surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was a total failure and caused more pain and disability. It took 6 years of alternative medicine to help with some of the chronic pain but not enough to resume my dental career.
While I was still recovering and in physical therapy, my dad, who lived independently, developed dementia which really affected his logic and decision-making abilities. He began self-medicating and not following his doctor’s orders which led to many emergency room visits. It became apparent that he could no longer safely live on his own.
We moved Dad to an assisted living facility where he lived, ate, and socialized well with other seniors. His costs per month were steady at approximately $4,000 per month for a few years, but after a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis his dementia accelerated. He needed much more care, and was transferred to the Memory Care unit of his facility. His monthly costs ballooned to over $11,000 per month for a small semi-private room and required help with all of his Daily Living Needs (ADLs)
Luckily for my dad, we purchased a long-term care insurance policy for Dad after experiencing Mom's long-term care expenses. We knew we could not afford to cover Dad’s care if he had a prolonged illness.
Dad was in an assisted living facility for about 6 years before he passed away, and received Long Term Care benefits that helped us pay the nearly $570,000 it cost for his care. There was no way that we would have been able to afford to pay for Dad’s care as we were also raising our 2 kids that were under the age of 5 at the time.
I joined California Life and Disability, Inc. in 2016 because my personal experiences with disability and long term care taught me the value and need for planning ahead to protect and unburden your family.
Thus, my client base of engineers and scientists from the largest technology firms in the area have been working with me to help them protect their assets and eliminate the financial burden of unexpected illnesses and disability through living benefits.
Thank you for reading my story.
Mike, The Living Benefits Geek