Seniors & Aging

Real Life | Yes, I asked for it. And you said…

Your feedback thoughts are both gratifying and fascinating.

Indeed, many are profound and insightful. Let’s share some of the most interesting ones with everyone, ID-protected and composited, of course:

▪ “Grandpa languished, frustrated, morbid, and helpless in the hospice for four months, longing to ‘get it over with’, struggling against our well-meaning gain-one-day-at-a-time life-preserving feats. Finally, after he managed to contrive a successful accident, we realized how guilty we’d been, selfishly and cruelly placing our own feelings ahead of his fervent wishes.

Now it’s too late to grant him the end-of-life peace and respect that he deserved. Thanks for spotlighting what was Grandpa’s point of view, and for a straightforward, objective discussion about suicide.”

▪ “Now I understand what my friend is doing and I realize how I’ve been giving her grief instead of compassion about her willful self-destruction.”

Grandpa’s and Friend’s life stage is the product of our society’s longer-living / longer-suffering trend. You and I probably will be there, too. Certainly, won’t we long to have our wishes honored, our loved ones to be supportive and compassionate, and to have moral and religious beliefs left for each of us to embrace as we, ourselves, wish?

▪ “Now, when I skip a meal, I wonder whether those sub-conscious ego defense mechanisms that you write about are making me commit suicide by self-starvation. Thanks a lot!”

Maybe you’re just so intensely, energetically and enthusiastically absorbed, though commendably, in your project-of-the-moment that your mind’s hunger overwhelms your tummy’s hunger. What would the psych professors call that, a “gastromental offset mechanism”?

▪ “Oh, I so thoroughly agree: Mom should be in an Alzheimer’s assisting living facility, and she knows it. She’s well acquainted with several nice ones, and can afford them. She’s devastatingly depressed, lonely, bored, driving-forbidden, isolated, and overwhelmed in the big old family home.

Respected friends, health care professionals and family encourage her to go. But she absolutely vetoes even mere suggestions, and won’t ever go willingly. So, the health care aide or I visit her daily, run her errands with her, and dutifully schlep her to her doctor appointments.

But all that’s far from enough. What to do?”

So, readers, what to do? Speaking of defense mechanisms!…

What emotion is so effectively blocking Mom’s objectivity?

Regardless, it seems to me that lucky-for-Mom daughter-angel is doing what she can, especially inventing acceptable reasons to have people in the house. “The old folks’ home” is “Plan A”, but Mom is a hard-core “Plan B” loved one.

Like Mom, so many of our loved ones are “Plan B”, and we just have to adapt to their ‘druthers, like it or not. Isn’t this scenario akin to Grandpa’s, deserving of our compassionate, respectful and loving support, regardless of our own sentiments?

▪ “Here’s a contribution to your collection of blended-family horror stories:

Hank retired to pursue his two passions: golf and Maria. The golf provided a rationalized motive excuse to slap together a hit-and-run (to the golf course, of course), inadequate, defective, shallow-thinking estate plan, and Maria provided Hank a son to cherish. Neither Hank nor anyone else ever even tried to be up-front with each other and to work the several terribly tough blended-family issues out together.

The estate plan bequeathed nothing to lifelong-dedicated wife Claire, because the house was jointly owned with Hank and she was entitled to his entitlements’ widow’s benefits. Everything else went to the son via the revocable trust. Maria was ignored! Claire lost the house because she didn’t have enough income to pay the mortgage and taxes. Son lost most of his inheritance to the estate’s and the trust’s expenses and fees in defending against Maria’s legal assaults (she would up with nothing, anyway).

Claire failed to pursue her right of spousal election. Only the lawyers and the trustees benefited.”

The lesson? When we give our estate planning less than the profoundest and thorough attention and honest desirable family-togetherness openness, starting with deep introspection and identification and consideration of all possible issues, we’re setting our loved ones up for trouble. In blended family scenarios, the issues, what-ifs, your-side-vs-my-side frictions and relational dynamics multiply exponentially. Thoroughness is imperative. So is competent professional guidance.

▪ “My sister Anna died suddenly, and her devoted husband Jerry never recovered from his bereavement. Depressed and death-obsessed, he subsequently created a splendid estate plan to benefit his sons and grandchildren, in which he irrevocably trusteed a lot of assets for the grandchildren’s educations, deliberately denying their fathers any control over them. Jerry later suffered a total mental breakdown, and became a ward of his sons. They obtained a court decree accessing the trust assets, despite the protection of the irrevocable trust, thus totally trashing Jerry’s profound wishes. How could this happen?”

As despicable as the sons’ selfish contempt for their father’s solemn wishes was, and at a time when he had become totally demented, they exploited a legal loophole. But, if Jerry originally had worked the plan out in loving familial fashion with them, then perhaps they would not have been hostile, but instead would have wanted to respect their father’s wishes. Clue the family in, folks. Work together, up front and mutually supportively!

▪ “My medical practice runs at full-throttle all day, every day.

When I started reading your column about why doctors make patients wait, it looked as though it would be yet another uninformed rant about uncaring physicians. Glad to say that was wrong — You got it all right, especially the realities that the delays are beyond our control and we hate them even more than the patients do”.

Thanks, Doc, and there seems to be a ray of sunshine: Medicare’s new innovative Merit Based Incentive Payment System, incentivizing curing instead of quantity of service, seems to be succceeding. So is the health care industry’s new digitalized and expanded data coding system. They’re nurturing the desired improvements in efficiency and time control that make Doc’s impossible work load less impossible.

Of my four medical appointments in the last two weeks, two happened within fifteen minutes after the scheduled time, one right on time and one five minutes early -- Believe it! How about yours?

▪ “We’re seeing TV commercials from companies that want to buy my life insurance policies. What’s the deal? Is this legit?”

The “deal” is called “viatical settlements”. You sell your policy to the company for some amount that’s a bargain for it. It becomes the owner and beneficiary, and you remain the insured. When you die, the company then profits from its venture.

Legit? In many states it is legal. But moral? That’s a different question. The buyer literally is betting on your early death, and hoping that you oblige them soon. Does that feel at least a little unsettling to you?

It does to your insurance company, because there’s no “insurable interest”, a demonstrable real and substantial financial loss for the beneficiaries if you die. That’s the not-gambling motive that must be present in order to become insured to begin with. Viatical purchasers’ motive is simply profit, gambling on insureds’ prompt deaths at the insurers’ expense.

Besides, there are lots of wholesome ways to turn the policies’ asset values into living benefits for you to enjoy, or to fund an otherwise unachievable charitable bequest.

Yes, dialoguing can be rewarding. Let’s keep it going.

Contact Gary Newman at Your ideas and comments are always welcome.