Goodbye in Her (or His) Eyes

" sickness and health, until death do us part..."

We all know the timeless wedding vows and most of us have spoken them.

When caregiving becomes 24/7, sometimes these vows are broken. An awful thought, you say? Your spouse would never leave you if you became a quadriplegic at age 42? And you know for certain you would never leave your spouse if she developed a brain tumor at age 47, needed constant care and due to the location of the tumor, didn’t know you? “Goodbye in Her Eyes” by the Zac Brown Band is a very moving, poignant song that could be construed to contain the very message that none of us would want to think we would ever hear.

Our kneejerk reaction is to think of spouses who bail in such a situation as the scum of the earth. But sometimes a caregiving spouse leaves for a different reason. He or she dies. Yes, I said dies. From the stress. From the strain. From the heartbreak of being on call 24/7 without money to hire help.

Christopher and Dana ReeveOr maybe she is a hero at caregiving and makes it all the way to the enduntil the person she is caring for dies. Then she leavesa 13 year old boy, their son Will Reeve. Did Dana Reeve want to die at age 44, just 17 months after her husband Superman Christopher Reeve died? Did she want to leave a boy who was only three years old when his dad became a quadriplegic at age 42? No, she did not. She was full of life and inspiration, but die she did, of lung cancer. At least that’s what the death certificate said. She had never smoked in her life. Did caring for her husband almost 10 years have anything to do with her early tragic death? If you believe all you read about unrelenting stress taking a toll on the human immune system, it had everything to do with it.

The Reeve family had resources and other actors pitched in financially to help them. What about the ordinary family? What do they do when an early LTC need strikes? How many marriages and family relationships can be saved if there is money available to hire help? How many caregivers would be able to keep their jobs?

My little book The ABCs of Long-Term Care Insurance includes two true stories about women I know personally who had a husband develop a long-term care need in his 40s. One couple had LTC insurance and one didn’t, so it really drives the point home to your clients.

Last week I promised to talk about who is using LTC with a breakdown by age. Here’s a summary quote from the prominent research:*

Although older adults are much more likely than younger people to need long-term care, approximately half of the broadly defined long-term care population living in the community is non-elderly. Even among the narrowly defined long-term care population in the community and facility, whose disabilities are more significant, one third is under age sixty-five. [Note: I like to use “narrowly-defined” as it means people who would qualify for LTC insurance benefits.]

Here’s the entire picture of the “narrowly-defined” LTC population:

You can choose to look at this data as the glass half empty or half full. Some people will look at the All Settings chart and say “2 out of 3 are not under 65 so it will for sure never happen to me at a younger age”. Others will say “1 out of 3 is actually a pretty high number, so yes, it could happen to me.”

Unfortunately, most people are in denial. PP. 122-123 of a new survey by the Retirement Income Certified Professional unit of The American College reports that only 25% of the respondees knew that the probability of needing long-term care at some point in one’s life is 70%, and only one out of three realize that families provide the majority of LTC.

I write these articles to throw out life preservers to families so they protect themselves from facing a long-term care need while there is still time. You can access my books yourself here for solid information about how to plan. If you don’t have a knowledgeable long-term care planning professional, I would be honored to help you with that. Just go to the Contact Us link and complete the short questionnaire so I can send you a free copy of my little book The ABCs of Long-Term Care Insurance and set up a time for a personal no-obligation consultation to learn more about you and make some customized recommendations.

Do it today with your financial professional or with me…just do it.

Phyllis Shelton

*Kaye, H. Stephen. Charlene Harrington, and Mitchell P. LaPlante. “Long-Term Care: Who Gets It, Who Provides It, Who Pays, and How Much?” Health Affairs January 2010 29:1, p. 13. [Note: this is still the best article I know about for this information. Research on this topic was published in 1991, 2006 and in 2010 with this article.]


    • Daphne Austin on October 17, 2015 at 5:20 pm
    • Reply

    I am a 57y/o female. In excellent health. Became widowed in June & have a 22y/o son w/ special needs. I live in Pennsylvania & need to know what LTC insurance companies that I should consider. TY

    1. Daphne, I’m so glad you found me and am so very sorry to hear about your loss. And you are right…planning ahead for LTC is even more important for you so your son will be taken care of. Lawrence Vivenzio on my team will contact you to set up a convenient time for us to talk so I can ask you a few more questions and make some recommendations that fit your budget. In the meantime, here’s a link to my little ebook that will give you a basic understanding of what long-term care insurance is all about and what goes into figuring out how much a plan will cost. Your timing is good. There’s still a couple of options for you from very reputable companies that have not started gender-rating yet which means you won’t be charged a lot more for being female. I’ll really look forward to spending a little time with you to help you protect yourself and your son. No obligation to buy anything of course. Kindly, Phyllis Shelton

    2. here’s the ebook link:

Leave a Reply to Daphne Austin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.