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A Little Help From Our Friends

Talking about long-term care isn’t easy, but it helps to have a friend who’s been there.By Helen Thompson

By Helen Thompson

Debbie always wanted the best for her mom. So one day, while playing golf with her friend Connie Chiles-Cooke, she told Connie she was getting worried. Her concern was twofold: Not only was her mother, a widow, getting on in years, but also, the investments left by her father had taken a big hit in the markets at the end of the bubble.

Connie was just the friend to help because she is also Debbie’s advisor. “She mentioned that she was interested in getting a long-term care policy for her mom,” says Connie. “She could not quit her job to take care of her mom, but she was afraid to broach the topic of getting a long-term care policy for her.”

Debbie’s mom didn’t take too kindly to the long-term care issue when it did come up. At the time, she was still in good health, and she felt distressed about getting a long-term care insurance (LTCI) policy because she thought it meant Debbie and her sister, Donna, didn’t want to take care of her. Connie invited Debbie to bring her mom in to help explain that exactly the opposite was true.

Reassurance works
“I shared an experience I had with my in-laws, and afterward she was much more open to the idea,” says Connie, president of C. Chiles-Cooke Agency/State Farm in Melbourne, Fla., and a member of Space Coast AIFA. “She understood that we wanted to help her protect her assets, and that long-term care insurance would help her stay at home with assistance without depleting her personal investments.”

Debbie’s mom thought about it for about a week, and then came back to Connie’s office, where she applied for the policy. “There were no health issues, so everything went right through,” Connie says.

Flash forward to 2003, some three years after the policy was issued, and another round of golf. Connie asked Debbie how her mom was doing­—and things didn’t sound so good. She was forgetting things and being treated for depression, and Debbie was preparing for the worst. Things came to a head one day when her mom, worried about whether Debbie’s sister would be able to make it into her gated community, went down and waited by the gate for hours, getting soaked by sprinklers. Donna was not scheduled to come by that day, however.

The diagnosis came not long after: Debbie’s mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Debbie and Donna were able to hire a personal assistant for the first year, but the cost became prohibitive as she needed more care. “Because of the long-term care insurance, they were able to place their mom in the nicest facility in the area,” says Connie. “She is able to do almost any activity her health can handle.”

The big picture
This experience has reinforced Connie’s belief that long-term care planning is something that should be done alongside retirement planning. “The two are not interchangeable,” she says. “They are two parts of one equation. It makes me feel like we’re doing a complete job when we talk about everything associated with long-term planning. People really believe the government is going to take care of them, and they don’t understand the reality until they have a family member or a friend go through this experience and share that information with them.”

Debbie was so pleased with how smoothly everything went that she and her husband didn’t even shop around for their LTCI policies—they went right to Connie. “A lot of my friends are taking care of their parents,” Debbie notes. “Most of them don’t know how long-term care insurance could help their family. Connie was just great; she’s a very caring person and was able to present this in the right way.”

This story was made possible with the cooperation of the LIFE. Visit LIFE’s website at to view additional realLIFEstories in text format or streaming video.



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