One of LTC Tree’s most senior writer was asked to offer some thoughts as to why men—more so than women—are often not receptive to the idea of long term care insurance. As a retired counselor, with many years experience dealing with many levels of folks not wanting to deal with what is usually in their best interests, I find this to be a most interesting dilemma. LTC Tree agents say that many of the men they talk to, boastfully state:
if should they should ever get to the point where they need others to take care of them, rather than buy long term care insurance or pay for their care out of pocket, they’ll just “shoot themselves” if and when they become disabled.
The agents report that they never follow through with the “six gun option” when the “need” arises. What usually happens is they are forced to use up their other options, such as using up their hard earned savings, selling their homes, and going on Medicaid as a final resort leaving their wife penniless. I have found that humans seem to have a universal, hard-wired propensity to avoid thinking about the negative realities that may face them in the future.
They simply don’t want to think about such things. Maybe it’s because they face enough problems surrounding them in their daily lives, and death and disability are so far in the future that they take what I call the Scarlett O’Hara option: “I’ll think about that tomorrow!” Young people in particular don’t usually think about what their circumstances will be like in old age. They usually envision it as a continuation of their current lives, with normal adjustments being made for getting weaker, slower, grayer, wearing bifocals, etc.; rarely do they see themselves becoming so feeble that others will have to care for them.
Basically, younger people tend to view themselves as “bullet-proof,” as an old counselor friend of mine used to say. I think the major explanation for all this is that major psychological defense mechanism called DENIAL. Denial is used by all people, at different times and in different situations, and it has its positive benefits as well as negative. It can keep us focused acutely on the present, especially during stressful times, so that we might better solve the problems now at hand.
For example, a man who has no job, no health insurance, no Long Term Care, and has used up all of his savings, does not need to be concerned about old age disability at that moment. Thus, he will not be focused on the future until he gets his more basic needs met, at which time he can then deal with the realities that may come later. Thus, when a person does get through their current life crises, and does need to start planning for the future, but still does not perceive the need to do so by saying he’ll just shoot himself, then we are now seeing denial in its most destructive form. What such a person is doing is saying that such a situation will not happen to him. Basically he is extending the “bullet-proof” years of his youth. And statistically he’s got a fifty percent chance of being right, which he uses to maintain his current attitude.
Of course, he sees himself as part of the fifty percent who will never need Long Term Care. Why should he? For example, even though most people know they are going to die (I’ve never had a client that denied that fact), it’s rather strange that most people do not prepare for their demise by making wills, making funeral preparations and getting other personal affairs in proper order. Rather, they usually avoid all this and let their children, other relatives or various government officials handle the necessities. We could explain all this by saying that some people just don’t care—and I know this is true in some cases, but it’s not true in most.
Denial is the culprit most often. Paradoxically, when a person does become disabled, about all they can focus on is their misery, and how it shouldn’t have happened to them, and it’s time to go on and die. As the person approaches death—whether it happens or not—all things in the real world around him become irrelevant. At that point everything else is put aside as the person prepares himself to die. Needless to say, LTC and other such matters have no meaning at this time. But, as often happens, thanks to the advances in modern medicine and health care, many such people survive their brush with death, and keep on living, often for many more years. However, a result of most near death experiences is some residual disability, such as a weak heart, crippling injury, reduced mobility, decreased mental abilities, emotional disorders, etc.
Many such people will at this point will be receptive to the notion of Long Term Care, but it will likely be too late because they are uninsurable or too expensive. They will then be forced to use up whatever resources they have to help them carry on all while being a burden to the rest of the family. Maybe a current case history of denial will explain further. Ralph is an acquaintance who is now lying in a nursing home. One month ago he fell and broke his hip. He is 76 years old. His hip required surgery and extensive follow-up care. He was in the hospital a few days and then transferred to the nursing home. While in the nursing home, sitting in his wheelchair, reading, he fell asleep and fell onto the floor, re-injuring his hip, which will require further surgery and rehab.
When I last visited him his attitude about all things in general had gotten bad. This, of course, was coming from anger—directed at himself in the form of depression, and towards his wife, hospital staff, and daughter, in that order. In spite of all this, he is one of those persons who will survive for many more years, because he has a strong heart and no other major physical problems. His health insurance has covered most of his needs thus far, but he is facing major life style changes that he will have to pay for himself, because he does not have Long Term Care. Because of two previous accidents in an auto and a fall at home, compounded by the recent falls, his mobility is now severely restricted, and will be from now on. Before he comes home, extensive modifications to his home will have to be made to accommodate him: bedroom moved from upstairs to downstairs; extensive modifications to the bathroom; ramp for entrance to the home; doors widened to accommodate a wheelchair; counters lowered in the kitchen; purchase and modification of a van so he can “get out of the house on my own.”
When I had proposed the idea of LTC insurance to him and his wife several years ago, they both rejected it, saying they’d never need it. Recently his wife lamented, “Why didn’t I listen to you, Joe. Since I turned down the long term care insurance for me and Ralph, the whole bottom has fallen out of our lives. And now I’m going to have to be a nurse the rest of his life! And, boy, am I spending money!” When I suggested that it probably wasn’t too late for her to become insured under Long Term Care, she said, “Oh, I’ll never need it. I’m healthy as a horse.” Isn’t denial powerful! Denial is both an emotional (feeling) and intellectual (thinking) process. It’s my belief that the thinking part is subservient to the more basic emotional part. And the emotional part of denial is trying to help us deal the omniscient specter of the fact that we’re going to die someday! And nobody wants to die.
We all want to stay in perfect health and live forever. All the old “fountain of youth” legends arose out of this desire. We are all cursed with the reality that we are unique, resourceful creatures, like no other creature on Earth, yet we are all doomed to someday return to dust, eventually to be forever forgotten. If we were to constantly think about this reality, we would eventually go mad or be continually depressed, so we basically deny it most of our lives, with the denial becoming a way of life for us. It helps us get to old age, reasonably intact. It becomes a habit, and we all know how difficult it is to break a bad habit. If you’d like to learn more about long term care insurance to see if it’s right for you take a moment to simply fill in this form and we’ll mail you the quotes. Thanks for reading today’s blog, we really appreciate your time.