As the holidays draw near this year, encourage your clients and families to give a gift whose value will be shown for years—even generations—to come: The gift of planning ahead for a possible need for care.
November is a great time to use and share planning resources. It’s National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, National Long Term Care (LTC) Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.
Caregivers are an often-overlooked, but critical, piece of the long term care picture. As a national supporter of the Alzheimer’s Association, OneAmerica® is committed to shining a light on caregivers and sharing resources to support them.
As financial professionals, talking about caregivers is a great way to encourage people to think of planning as a gift. We often hear people say, “My spouse will take care of me if I need it,” or “My daughter is a nurse, I’ll live with her.” We have an obligation to help people think of those they care about and plan for their futures. Sometimes planning starts with outlining care wishes or designating a power of attorney. Other times families are in a position to think about how to best protect the retirement income they’ve planned for from the effects of long term care expenses, which is where considering asset-based long term care protection comes in.
Regardless of how many assets people have, encouraging those around us to start building their plan is a special opportunity we have to help others. It’s true that family members are usually the first line of caregiving when long term care needs arise. More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias1—and that doesn’t include millions more providing care for people with other diseases or chronic ailments.
When people rely on family members to provide their long term care, they may not realize the full consequences of that decision. Caregivers face tremendous financial, physical and mental burdens. For the Alzheimer’s Association, understanding the role of caregivers is important not only because of the sheer numbers, but because research shows caregivers of people with dementia face even higher burdens than caregivers of those with other conditions.
- More dementia caregivers reported some effect on their own employment, ranging from leaving early or arriving late, to reducing hours, turning down a promotion opportunity, or quitting their jobs entirely to provide care.2
- 59 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers rate their emotional stress as “high” or “very high.”
- 35 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers report a decline in their own health because of caregiving.
- Alzheimer’s caregivers often have to provide care over a longer period of time, because the average life expectancy after diagnosis is four to eight years, but can be as long as 20 years.
Is this what people want for their caregivers, who are often the same people they’ve spent a lifetime working to protect? Probably not.
One of the reasons I became a financial professional was to help people avoid the sometimes devastating effects of caregiving. After caring for my grandfather after a long illness, my grandmother was left with virtually no assets to live on. My mother then became her mother’s caregiver, which affected our entire family.
We can’t predict the future to know who will be affected by significant long term care expenses and who won’t, but we can plan for the possibility and help build a retirement strategy that includes protecting retirement income from long term care expenses. When we consider how long people may need care for Alzheimer’s or other dementias, asset-based long term care protection offers a way to protect that income, with long term care benefits lasting up to a lifetime and a death benefit if long term care benefits aren’t used entirely.
Fortunately we, as financial professionals, are in a great position to help people think of long term care planning as an opportunity for hope—hope that families can plan together for how care will be given and who will provide it.
This November and beyond, we’ll be encouraging people to use Alzheimer Association resources, like the “10 Common Signs of Caregiver Stress” pictures, to start conversations with their clients, their colleagues and their own families. We’ll be distributing them in person at conferences and online in the future.
Consider them a “gift-starter.” They could be just what you need to encourage your clients to give the gift of peace of mind and hope for the holiday season.
- 2019 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, www.alz.org/facts, copyright 2019.
- https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Dementia-Caregiving-in-the-US February2017.pdf, February 2017.