by Steve Sperka
What You Need To Know
- Help clients go beyond thinking of LTC planning as nursing home planning.
- Talk about the kinds of services that can keep people in their homes longer.
- Find ways to clients and their loved ones about what the plan is.
The pandemic has created a slew of fresh perspectives surrounding long-term care that carry with them new challenges and opportunities. While this has certainly laid bare some of the problems in the elder care system, it has also broadened the conversation around the vulnerability that comes with aging. Additionally, the elder care landscape continues to change as novel technologies emerge that offer us new, and increasingly flexible, modes of care.
These trends can be overwhelming for many of our clients who are now, more than ever, looking for direction. This trepidation was confirmed by an internal Thrivent study conducted in August 2021 among existing and prospective policy holders who indicated they were looking for more guidance and more diverse tools for navigating the long-term care system.
So then, how are we to best serve the unique needs of our clients as we navigate this new normal? While there is no explicit blueprint on how to do this for every client, there are three fundamental guidelines we can keep in mind as we begin to explore this territory.
1. Individual Needs Require Individual Planning
There is a common perception that long-term care is something that is only administered in nursing homes. The reality is that most caregiving is done at home by loved ones. This shift in understanding can be empowering for many families, but only if we’re able to comprehensively explain the costs and benefits of the options available. To do this, we must thoroughly understand the interplay between the desires and needs of our clients.
For instance, a client who wants to stay at home and be cared for by their spouse or children will have different needs, such as accessing a wider array of services, than someone who wants to age at home but be cared for by a professional. Someone being cared for by their family may find that they need to draw upon services such as adult daycare, or various health monitoring technologies, to help their family facilitate their care. The viability of the options ultimately used will be largely determined by the amount of time and financial resources the family can spare.
In this way it’s important to carefully consider what each client wants their care plan to look like, and how those desires ultimately influence their long-term care needs.
2. No Plan Survives First Contact
No matter how meticulously you construct a plan, things can change. This is especially true when that plan isn’t meant to be deployed until years after it was first created. Lives, desires and health needs can change without warning, which is why it is important to understand that the best type of care plan is one that has room to adapt to the changing terrain of the elder care journey. Likewise, it’s not only our clients that can change over time, but the options available to them as well.
From Amazon to AirBnB, we’ve seen countless industries disrupted by the introduction of new technologies that have transformed the way we consider those sectors and force us to alter our relationship with them.
From smart walkers that keep families informed about a loved one’s activity levels to emerging applications that enhance a care recipient’s ability to maintain a high level of social interaction, having an awareness of these kinds of developing resources is a key way a financial advisor can continue to educate and bring value to their clients.
Providing this type of value means being forward thinking with respect to how emerging technologies may impact conventional elder care practices. That type of foresight can take the form of anything from researching the development of new technologies, to keeping up on funding sources that provide clients the flexibility to afford the care that suits them best.
3. Communication Is Key
Frequently, clients will create a detailed plan, and even take action on their plan that is unfortunately never communicated to their family. This often leads to a situation where the family only discovers their loved one’s plan after they have passed away and an alternate course of care had to be enacted.
For this reason, it is critical to include the client’s family in the planning process as much as possible. When care planning with married couples it is beneficial to consult both partners at once, particularly since families so frequently rely on each other for care as they age.
Likewise, encouraging your clients to engage their extended family throughout the planning phase and share their plans as much as possible can help mitigate any miscommunications that might develop down the road. This is even more critical for second marriages, where adult children from previous marriages may have very different concerns for their parent.
One way financial advisors can encourage this is by regularly reminding clients of where they are in their care planning journey. Even something as mundane as regular email reminders can serve to keep the topic fresh in a client’s mind and embolden them to have discussions with their families. Annual reviews can be a great time to assess their plan, any new options, and the current state of their care funding.
Because long-term care planning often occurs years in advance of when those plans may ever be needed, many clients simply forget exactly what they have in place. Being reminded of the details of a plan helps empower individuals to make updates to their strategy as their lives and needs change, making this sort of communication all the more relevant.
Going forward, it’s clear that addressing our client’s potential long-term care needs, and their associated solutions, will become an increasingly important aspect of advisorship. However, we need not be daunted. A financial advisor should guide clients along what is likely an unfamiliar path and point out the hazards, opportunities, and solutions. By staying aware of the changing landscape, we can help them navigate their journey in ways that are most meaningful to them.