As financial advisors it’s easy to become focused strictly on the needs of our clients. Crunching the numbers and charting a path through the financial wilds is what we do best. However, when it comes to long term care planning, we routinely make the case to clients that their need to plan is not to protect them as much as to protect their families. Yet, there is frequently a disconnect between the map and the territory when it comes to long term care planning and the realities of providing care.
With 89 percent of caregivers providing care to a relative, we can see that it’s important to engage a client’s family directly when we discuss long term care.1 Likewise, when we consider that 52 percent of caretakers providing care to a loved one feel unqualified to provide it, it’s easy to understand why we’re seeing a push for more comprehensive solutions.2
This new, holistic approach can be thought of as the Eldercare Journey. It is a journey with phases that requires a team to help manage. It centers around providing care to a loved one, while maintaining the caregiver’s health and finances as much as possible.
Prelude to the Journey
First, it’s helpful to understand what one experiences in the lead-up to the Eldercare Journey. To do this we can think of aging as a journey of its own, with distinct stages—Go-Go, Slow-Go, and No-Go:3
- The Go-Go stage represents the beginning of later life, when folks are still in relatively good health and able to dedicate their attention to their passions.
- In the Slow-Go stage, people experience the first signs of declining health. Mobility generally begins to diminish and their need for help from family begins to grow.
- Finally, the No-Go stage is characterized by the individual’s need for regular care and assistance.
Steps of the Eldercare Journey
Understanding these preliminary conditions can help us define some common steps on the Eldercare Journey:
- Awareness. During this step, family members first become aware that their loved one is losing some capacity for self-care. This can be as simple as a son noticing his father forgetting to turn off the stove. This stage might correlate to the “Slow-Go” phase detailed above.
- Early Action. In this phase the family begins to help in small ways. Perhaps they’re taking their mother shopping or driving her to appointments that she can no longer manage herself. This phase could occur in, or between, the “Slow-Go” and “No-Go” stages.
- Crisis. Here, a loved one suffers a health event that makes them unable to care for themselves independently, and their family must determine how best to care for them. This comes firmly in the “No-Go” stage.
- Claims. This final step is when consistent care is required, and the appropriate parties are providing benefits.
How Should We Pack for the Journey?
Going forward, financial advisors need to know how to best set clients up not only with a plan, but with tools they can use when the time comes to put those plans into action.
Thrivent conducted an internal survey in August 2021 among existing and prospective policy holders to examine this very idea. The major takeaway from that survey was that what families are primarily looking for is guidance, as well as services that they can call upon for assistance when the road gets bumpy.
The types of guidance and services families need, however, depends greatly on what stage they’re in on their journey. With that in mind, let’s revisit the steps of the Eldercare Journey and examine the type of support that might benefit clients experiencing each phase:
- The Awareness step is full of clients still in the “Go-Go” phase, or those beginning the “Slow-Go” phase, who probably aren’t putting a lot of thought into long term care. For advisors, it’s important to maintain contact with clients throughout this step while getting to know their families.
Research has shown 70 percent of women change their financial advisor within one year of the death of their spouse.4 This suggests that in many cases, no substantive relationship has been established between advisors and the family members closest to their clients. Additionally, a recent estimate cited that only 40 percent of individuals who purchased long term care insurance fully understood their benefits.5 As such, small gestures like regular emails meant to touch base and remind families about their plan can be incredibly valuable.
Carriers are also beginning to offer wellness programs that have the potential to keep clients healthier longer and ultimately reduce the number and duration of claims. While there was some concern that this type of add-on might be construed as rebating, many state regulators have ruled that a wellness program is not an illegal practice, leaving the door open for carriers to offer programs designed to maintain the health of their clients.5
- The Early Action step is when families try to maintain a delicate balancing act to meet the care needs of their loved one. However, there are many new technologies that can make this stop on the Eldercare Journey easier for everyone involved.
For instance, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor a care recipient’s home can provide a variety of help from examining their habits to help diagnosing health problems, to automatically calling first responders for help in an emergency.6 Similarly, technologies like digital document storage platforms are already in use with some carriers and allow care providers to organize information and share it securely.7
One thing that becomes more apparent during this phase is the onset of caregiving stress, with much of it occurring due to the sense of isolation many caregivers experience.8 Therefore, providing access to the array of support groups available, either in-person or online, can provide a vital pillar of support for client families.9
- The Crisis and Claims phases are usually experienced concurrently and are typically the times when client families are experiencing their highest levels of stress and need the most support.
Because of this, there is a desire for plans that provide a licensed professional, such as a social worker, who can help coordinate the care of their loved one. This type of benefit is something that many families might not think to ask for at the beginning of the journey but will certainly find invaluable in a time of crisis.
Likewise, complicated claims processes have been called out as tremendous pain points for families trying to manage care. Plans that incorporate simple claims processes will certainly be preferred by client families. Families would likely place a high value on plans that include a designated claim coordinator to assist them through the complexities of filing claims and obtaining benefits.
Where Does This Journey Lead?
As technology in this area becomes more advanced, financial advisors can provide clients with the tools they need for the road, and as we learn more about the terrain, we can guide them toward the best paths to take on their journey. As clients look for more guidance and tools from us, we have the opportunity to expand our role from simply providing a map to one that includes a compass.
- 2020 Report: Caregiving in the US, AARP, accessed from Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 – AARP Research Report.
- ”Beyond Dollars 2018: How Caregiving Impacts Families, Communities and Society”, Genworth Financial, November 2018.
- Anna Rappaport, “The Journey Through Retirement” https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2021/research-journey-retirement-report.pdf.
- “Women as the next wave of growth in US wealth management” July 29, 2020, McKinsey & Company, accessed from Women as the next wave of growth in US wealth management | McKinsey.
- Allison Bell, “5 Ways to Keep People With LTC Insurance Healthy” https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/08/19/5-ways-to-keep-people-with-ltc-insurance-healthy/.
- “The future of elder care is here – and it’s artificial intelligence”, The Guardian. June 3, 2021, accessed from The future of elder care is here – and it’s artificial intelligence | US news | The Guardian.
- “NGL acquires Everplans, laying a foundation for expansion to become a digital leader in the insurance and employee benefit landscape”, Jan 25 2021, access from NGL acquires Everplans, laying a foundation for expansion to become a digital leader in the insurance and employee benefit landscape (http://nglic.com).
- Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, & Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act Initial Report to Congress, RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council, Sept. 22, 2021, accessed from RAISE Family Caregivers Act Initial Report to Congress (acl.gov).
- 9 Caregiver Support Groups that Help Caregivers in Need, CaringBridge Staff, Sept. 12, 2019, accessed from 9 Caregiver Support Groups that Help Caregivers in Need | CaringBridge.