Here is a re-print of the letter I’ve just sent to this article’s author, Michael Wolff:
June 11, 2011
Dear Mr. Wolff,
Thank you for your brilliant, poignant, soul-baring article in the May 28, 2012, edition of NY Magazine.
Everything in your article is factual and realistic, except for your flimsy rationale leading to your decision against owning long-term care insurance (LTCi).
Here are some rational admissions: “Not only do I have the cash (although not enough to self-finance my decline)..,” “The costs for my mother…who, for the past eighteen months…has not been able to…address her most minimal needs…come in at about $17,000/month.”
Eighteen months times $17,000 equals $306,000 that she has incurred in long-term care costs so far. You thank your mother for purchasing LTCi and state how well it has contributed to her high care costs. After providing readers with evidence and probabilities, you convince yourself that you will not wind up in a similar situation. This makes no sense to me.
By your description, your mother should have, or could have started collecting from her LTC insurance three years ago, after she fell. You go on to describe in detail your denial and failure to recognize the severity of her needs earlier on. You like dwelling in denial!
I can’t tell the date your mother had the surgery that put her into “stark and dramatic post-operative decline” and cognitive “free fall.” It is clear to me that even before this catastrophic downturn, your mother collected significantly more from her LTCi than she paid into it. In addition, and equally or more importantly, her LTCi has afforded your family improved options and been an emotional blessing to you, your siblings, and your children.
Prior to her surgery you describe your mother as being muddled and gently sinking. After the surgery you describe her as being “reduced to a terrified creature.” Many of us favor legislating more individual control over dying and more dignified deaths. However, according to your narrative, until your mother’s surgically induced rapid decline, it does not sound like she experienced the tragic “disquiet…bewilderment and resignation” and unmitigated anger you describe.
In other words, prior to her surgery, although she needed care for some time, it appears that she had some quality of life. Even if improved options for death were available, it doesn’t sound to me like she was ready to “pull the plug” and trigger a “do-it-yourself exit strategy” at that point.
You close your article stating you will, “be trying to work out the timing and details of a do-it-yourself exit strategy. As should we all.” This is an excellent way to end your article, Mr. Wolff, but this is off-the-deep-end irrational, and not even an original cop-out.
I don’t understand how someone as highly educated, eloquent, and well-informed as you can describe the high odds and costs involved with long-term care, tell readers you have the income to afford LTCi, describe the financial and emotional benefits LTCi ownership has brought to your family, and then make such a flimsy and irrational excuse not to buy it.
If you have the gradual decline you describe, like so many of us healthy, educated, compliant, long-lived people will, and do not own LTCi, your kids may not be very appreciative when they wind up with major, instead of minor caregiving roles, disrupted lives, or money-hemorrhaging induced resentment towards each other. All of this would be largely avoidable with responsible LTC planning, not flimsy excuses.
I question why your premiums were quoted at $5,000/year. Even in NYC, where care costs are much higher than in other parts of the country, there should be plenty of lower cost LTCi premium options for you. Perhaps your flimsy, irrational excuse not to buy LTCi was merely a reaction to the premium quote. In addition, you describe you live with someone. Enough of the excellent LTCi carriers may grant you hefty full or partial spousal discounts, even if you are not married.
Honey Leveen, LUTCF, CLTC, LTCP