Couple fear losing their home after insurance company refuses to pay man’s terminal illness claim

Ross and Sharon Cooksley. Photo / Provided

“I thought they would have some compassion.”

These are the words of a Christchurch couple who fear they will soon lose their home after the man’s insurance company denied his terminal illness claim because he could live longer than 12 months.

For the past 22 years, Ross and Sharon Cooksley have both taken out life and terminal illness insurance with Resolution Life, formerly AMP Life, which they believe would cover them if they were diagnosed with a terminal illness.

This proved true five years ago when Sharon was diagnosed with bone cancer and had less than 12 months to live.

Her terminal illness cover was then paid out, and although she was over the 12 month expectation, she is still in severe pain, unable to work and continually tired.

When Ross fell ill and was officially diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s last month, the couple assumed he would be able to make a similar claim.

However, shortly after contacting the insurance company, they were informed that the terminal illness claim would not be approved as he could live longer than 12 months.

The life expectancy of people with Alzheimer’s disease varies greatly, but the average life expectancy after diagnosis is eight to ten years.

Sharon said: “They basically said that on our policy we ticked life cover and terminal illness cover and because we didn’t tick the critical illness box and Ross is deemed to survive the period of terminal illness than 12 months, we are not covered.”

When they found out they wouldn’t be covered, Sharon said they cried. Ross told the Herald the situation had become an “absolute nightmare”.

“You try to do your best and you don’t have any money coming in.

“We are going to lose our home,” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks.

The weight of stress, in addition to each of their terminal illnesses, was making Ross’ symptoms worse, Sharon thought.

“It makes everyday life so difficult, just self-preservation is difficult. And I worry about Ross and where his journey is going to take him. And I see changes, even just in the last little while with the stress that he had, that he didn’t do very well.”

Before falling ill, Ross said they had never experienced such stress, even when Sharon was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“What are we going to do, try to maintain the family unit, the other side is the money comes out really fast when these things happen. That’s the scary part for me, you can’t keep up with what’s going on So we’re in a big shit situation.

“We are on an allowance but it is not enough to pay our [mortgage]”

Ross and Sharon Cooksley with their children Callum and Sophie.  Photo / Provided
Ross and Sharon Cooksley with their children Callum and Sophie. Photo / Provided

Right now Ross says he lives with a fog over him, he tries to keep going, but he loses his way when he speaks. Ross “just goes white”.

The couple filed a complaint with the Ombudsman to try to find a solution.

For Sharon, his diagnosis is frightening because they don’t know how he will be affected or how quickly he will progress.

At one point, she even asked if they could receive 80% of the compensation, which was also not accepted.

A spokesperson for Resolution Life said they were sensitive to the difficult situation Ross Cooksley was going through, but that terminal illness cover under his policy was only claimable if they had a life expectancy less than 12 months.

“This is in accordance with the general terms and conditions of the policy and generally applies to these types of life insurance products.

“In order to substantiate a claim, and in accordance with the terms of the policy, medical evidence is required to confirm that the insured person is not expected to live longer than twelve months. So far, Mr Cooksley has not been in able to provide such medical proof.

In response, Sharon said the company did not understand the meaning of compassion and if sympathetic they would act responsibly and caringly.

Their daughter, Sophie, said what helped them the most over the past few days was the response they received from the Givealittle page she created for them.

“The fact that they haven’t received any help from any of the professionals, but in the past few days they have just received an outpouring of love and support from complete strangers.”

You can visit their Givealittle page here.