Do You Have All Your Marbles? Short-Term Memory Tests

MarblesWhen folks opt to apply for a long term care insurance policy one of the things that happens is the carrier will call to set up a phone or face-to-face interview.  In this interview the long term care insurance carrier’s representative  will ask many (if not all) of the health questions again – just to be sure we didn’t miss anything in the long term care insurance application.  However, they often also do a mental acuity screen to see if you still have “all your marbles.”  And this is where it can be tricky….

The questions in the mental health screen are not hard.  They will frequently give you 10 words (one at a time), and ask you to use it in a sentence to be certain you heard the correct word.  For example, they may say “barn” and you have to say something like “the red barn sat on the hill.”  This way they know you heard barn and not corn.  Then they will follow this with “purple” or “courage” or other everyday words.  At the end of the 10 words, they will ask you how many you can remember (and you aren’t supposed to write them down… this would be cheating!).  Generally you get one or two tries and they aren’t expecting perfection.  But they do think if you had just talked about them, you could get most of the words correct.

Some alternative tests I have heard about are counting backwards from 100 by 7’s (folks with early dementia often get lost at the second set of 7 and start counting forward because they can’t remember the task).  Or they might give you a set of 3 animals and ask you which is different (i.e. “lion”, “lamb,” and “giraffe”).  They then cycle thru various combinations of animals (like lamp/giraffe/snake and giraffe/snake/lion).  On this test there is no wrong answer as there are many logical solutions to the puzzle.  What they are looking for is that you solve it each time and not just trigger on the same animal over and over.  Folks with early dementia will often say the same animal each time… even when it is not in the list.  There can be a variety of other tests.  The point is not to give you a complete list in this blog, but just to let you know you have to take this test seriously, because they sure do.  If you cannot pass this short term memory piece, they will not offer you coverage.

SO… best practices:

1)      Apply early.  Many people in their 70s can’t remember 10 words…  So the younger you are the less likely you are to have problems with this.  The average purchase age today in the industry is in the 50s.

2)      Specifically set aside time to have this conversation.  If it’s over the phone, don’t multi-task activities like driving or making dinner.  Whatever you do, don’t have a few alcoholic drinks before you attempt it!

3)      Set the appointment during the part of the day or the day of the week where you know you will not be tired or distracted.  Being tired is a top reason people struggle to remember things.

So to summarize,  when applying for a long term care insurance policy schedule a good time for the interview and be prepared for the short term memory.

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