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Robin Williams coverage boosts dementia awareness [Video]

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Susan Schneider, the widow of Robin Williams, has given the insurance agents and brokers participating in this month’s Long-Term Care Awareness Month campaign a new marketing tool.

Schneider went on ABC’s Good Morning America show Monday to explain in an interview that the primary cause of her husband’s death, in August 2014, was Lewy body dementia, a condition that can lead to hallucinations, depression and problems with movement.

Some people with Lewy body dementia have Parkinson’s disease, and Williams also had Parkinson’s disease.

See also: Dementia: It’s more than Alzheimer’s

Some publications reported in November 2014, based on an autopsy report, that Williams had suffered from the condition, but the interview with Schneider has been getting wide coverage, from media organizations such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and many entertainment news providers.

Schneider talked about “living a nightmare” in late 2013 and early 2014, while she and her husband were trying to find out why his behavior had changed, and then trying to cope after May 2014, when they learned he had Parkinson’s disease. Shortly before Williams died, doctors were preparing to test him for Lewy body dementia or other neurological complications of the disease.

The challenges facing issuers of stand-alone long-term care insurance (LTCI) seem to have led to muted support for the awareness month campaign this year, but LifeSecure Insurance Company put out a national press release promoting the campaign.

Mutual of Omaha and OneAmerica have put out collection of tips for insurance producers with the theme, “Start the conversation.”

Brad Cummins, the owner of Local Life Agents, an agency in Upper Arlington, Ohio, said in an email interview that he thinks starting the conversation has always been difficult, in part because consumers fear putting their money into an arrangement that they won’t use, and in part because they have a hard time grasping the concept of a long-term care (LTC) need “happening to them, versus happening to someone else.”

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Recent waves of LTCI premium increases probably aren’t making starting the conversation any easier, Cummins said. But Cummins is making a major push to start the conversation in his market.  

Cummins told the story of an insurance producer friend who sold LTCI to both of his grandmothers. Both used their coverage to pay for assisted living facility care. “Throughout the years, both of his grandmothers have collected in excess of $500,000 in benefits from their policies,” he said.

Buying LTCI coverage was “well worth the investment in their premium dollars,” Cummins said.