* The following is a very short excerpt from a project I started. My project started as an idea for a book on elder law, estate planning and, in particular, financing long-term care. I soon realized that such a book was vitally important but very boring. Endeavoring to spice it up, I am now writing it in the first person voice from the view point of a man who just died.
Chapter One: My Financial Life
I just died. I always wondered when and how I would die and now I know. I died a few moments ago from Alzheimer’s disease. I am glad I died because now I remember every moment of my life. Moments before I died, I did not recognize my wife, son or daughter. I did not remember anything – not my name, gender or age. Alzheimer’s killed me because I forgot how to swallow. I began to waste away, losing thirty pounds in six months. I aspirated trying to eat. Carol, the nice young woman who cut my vegetables for me at Golden Oak, tried to help me when I coughed. It didn’t work. My lungs couldn’t handle yet another assault of food and they became infected. I was too weak to get out of bed and so I just suffocated in myself. It would have been a frightening way to die but I kept forgetting I was dying so it was not that bad.
Now that I have died, I am sad but also relieved. I lived 92 years. I did not mean to live that long. I did not want to live that long. The last five years were the worst of my life. I was holding up pretty well until I turned 87. It started when I fell. I was at home, the home my wife and I bought 53 years ago. We worked hard and paid off the mortgage 33 years ago. I hate having debt. Well, at least I did until I had too much debt to even keep track of anymore. I am also embarrassed by that because, before I couldn’t remember to eat or who I was and before I fell and before I retired, I was an attorney, a very good attorney. I used to warn my clients about the biggest threat to their estate. I said over and over again, make sure you have a long-term care plan because the biggest threat to your wealth, your retirement, your estate is not probate or taxes. It is the high cost of long-term care. I helped my clients prepare and devise plans to make sure they did not die penniless and leave their surviving spouses with anything but debt. Yet, I died penniless and left nothing for my wife.
That is why I am sad. I did not provide for her. I did during most of my life but I screwed it up at the end. I did not make sure she had retirement income after I died. Now she will have a big pay cut. I spent most of my retirement savings on the assisted living facility, the nursing home and then the hospice house where I died just now. She does not even know yet I have died because she is still at home, but needs help now too. She will find out today that she is a widow.
I should have included her more in our finances. I always handled everything. I worked, she raised the kids. That was the deal. In retirement, I was bored so I moved investments around, hired and fired investment advisors. I lost money in 2008 like everyone did. I made some of it back but, like a dummy, panicked and sold low, moving my losses into cash. She did not even know. In fact, she doesn’t even know where all of our accounts are. I wish I could call her and tell her to look in the paperwork I keep in the spare bedroom. Hopefully, my kids will find my account statements.
* First excerpt, written by Darol Tuttle, elder law attorney. Stay tuned for more.