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The Lucky Ticket - Not!

May 2, 2014

By Mary Beth Wighton


By: Mary Beth Wighton, Person with Dementia
Date: 2012-12-20

I'm not much of a gambler. Once in a blue-moon, I like to buy a lottery ticket. I carefully choose my numbers, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. Then I play the fun game of; "If I won a million dollars I would ....."

Unfortunately, I never seem to pick the right numbers. This also seems to be the case for when I made a gamble on what life insurance coverage I should choose. Back in 2005, things were very busy in our lives. We had recently become partners in a business, Brianna had started grade six, and we were doing the normal things parents usually do. Being critical ill was far from our minds.

I was in good shape - 5 ft 8 inches, 141 lbs, and a non-smoker. My only medical history of concern was heart disease. My Dad had two triple-bypasses by the time he was 75. Other than that, we Wighton's are a fine species.
Still, we felt it prudent to get some coverage “just in case.” We met with an insurance agent from a well-known insurance company and he went through the packages we could invest in.

Critical illness insurance was founded in 1983 in South Africa under the name dread disease insurance. (From Wikipedia). Typical critical illness insurance products refer to policies where the insurer pays the policyholder a pre-determined lump sum cash payment if the policyholder is diagnosed with a critical illness listed in the policy. What is interesting is that the actual conditions covered depend on the market need for cover and competition amongst insurers. This determines the “norm.” To put it another way, the diseases that most people are likely to get are put on the list and prioritized. For us, it boiled down to two polices: 1) basic critical illness insurance and 2) critical illness insurance. This is kinda like when someone hands you two scratch tickets and asks you which one you want. You make your pick and scratch it off to see if you are a winner. I chose ticket number one – basic critical illness insurance. I chose the wrong ticket. My insurance policy coverage only includes the following: 1) cancer 2) coronary artery bypass surgery 3) heart attack and 4) stroke. Remember, this list is based on what most people are like to get. Who would have thought at the age of 45 I would pull the unlucky ticket of Frontotemporal Lobe dementia (FTD)? But I did.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought to myself – its ok, I have critical illness and life insurance. Of course, I didn't remember my coverage would not do that – cover me - because I did not have one of the four diseases listed within the policy. When I retrieved my paper-work out of our lock box, I quickly began to read it. It then hit me – hard – I had picked the wrong ticket. I was horrified.

It is one thing to place a $5 bet on a lottery ticket and lose. It's another thing to pay a monthly premium and lose. The second coverage plan I did not choose had dementia on the list for a payout disease. For a few dollars more each month, I could have had this policy and coverage. Hind site being 20/20, I wish I had chosen the other policy product.
I started to cry. How can this be happening? I have just been diagnosed with dementia and I do not have critical life insurance that covers it. I flew into a rage. Dawn went for cover as I began to throw things around. I just couldn't handle it. I felt like I had failed my family. I hung my head down in shame.

Dawn and I are like so many other couples our age. We have a mortgage, car payments, a child at home, and are doing our best with balancing today and tomorrow's financial needs. From what we understand about the disease, Dawn will eventually become my primary care giver. How will she do that, work, and do everything else? And how about just spending time with me while the disease has not ravaged my body and mind. So now what?

Dawn and I will continue to do our best each and every day. Just like we always do. Dawn goes off to work each day; we continue to receive bills; and we continue to pay them. However, it is with a heavy heart that she sits at her desk. Her work calls are interrupted by her own thoughts of wondering how I am, what I am doing, and if I am all right. She is not at that desk because she wants to be, but out of necessity. How different our lives would be if dementia had been on the basic coverage and we had received a large lump of cash.

According to Alzheimer Society Canada, in 2011, 747,000 of Canadians 65 or older were living with cognitive impairment, which includes dementia. What is terrifying is that by 2031, this figure will increase to 1.4 million (( Facts-about-dementia). So, the obvious question is when does dementia get put on the basic coverage list?

If I did win a million dollars by picking the right numbers, I know exactly what I would do. I would have Dawn retire from her job and I would take her and Brianna to exotic, fascinating places in the world. But more importantly, I would have her right beside me each and every day enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Because that's the real winning scenario. Enjoying time with the one you love without any financial concerns.

Copyright 2013 Mary Beth Wighton