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Cognitive Dissonance and Deciding to Plan for LTC

Few people want to picture themselves suffering from a critical illness, having a limited ability to care for themselves, or experiencing the misfortune of a sudden and unexpected decline in health. To some extent that is understandable. Most people have lead lives in good health which provided them with experiences they look back on with fondness, and which they want to continue without needing extended care for a health problem.

Yet, the inevitability of going from good health to declining health requiring more and more care is something nearly everyone must face. We get older every day. The older we get the greater the likelihood we will need some form of daily care. It could be care to assist with mobility and simple tasks, or skilled nursing care which will be required on a regular basis, if not a daily basis. But the thought of needing daily care is difficult for some people to accept.

Not accepting the likelihood of needing care is what is know as cognitive dissonance - when our situation or reality contradicts our beliefs. The simple way to explain cognitive dissonance is that it occurs when people are in denial of what is occurring or is likely to occur. As much as it may be hoped that it does not occur, the likelihood that it will occur is proven by the numbers. The numbers are that approximately three out of every four people will need long term care (LTC), which is defined as care for more than ninety days other than care received in a hospital. The care may be received in the home, in an assisted living facility, in a nursing home, or in some other form of adult care facility.

With odds like that, reality is hard to deny. Odds like that are a good bet regardless of how much we wish or hope otherwise by engaging in cognitive dissonance. Using a spinning wheel as an example, if there are 100 stops on a wheel and 75 of them are red and 25 are blue, as much as one may hope for blue - that blue is their favorite color, that blue is the color of the sky, the ocean, the mountains, and the color of their eyes - if they had to make a decision on which color the wheel was going to stop on, they would choose red every time. Similarly, the odds of needing LTC are simply too great, so it makes sense to choose to have a LTC plan.

Cognitive dissonance is overcome by a person making a decision based on demographics and the data of reality - rather than feelings, hopes, wants, best intentions, or positive thinking - and what is the smart thing to do based on what is overwhelmingly likely to occur rather than what is wished for. It short, it is smart to deal with reality by deciding to plan for LTC  should it be needed, rather than believing that it won’t.