Collateral damage inflicted by a spouse or parent needing Long-Term Care (LTC) can be catastrophic to family and loved ones. Unfortunately, this important topic often gets brushed over or left out of the conversation regularly by financial professionals.
Most financial professionals will take the time to discuss the cost risks associated with not having a plan for LTC with their clients. They will share facts such as:
- Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of LTC
- 4.3 is the average number of years Long-Term Care benefits are necessary1
- The estimated total cost for private room nursing care is $431,6002
Surprisingly, the above statistics rarely motivates clients to purchase an LTC plan. That is because the discussion should be about more than money; it needs to be about the effects LTC can have on your clients' loved ones.
Often, there are two main obstacles that stand in the way of financial professionals having a more in-depth LTC discussion with their clients:
Obstacle #1: They have not personally felt the impact of what not having a plan for LTC can have outside of a financial burden, so they may not truly understand the importance of it.
Obstacle #2: They don't know the right questions to ask and even if they did, they do not know how to answer them.
Now to help overcome obstacle #1, I'd like to share a story with you.
A few years ago, I was in the hospital and ended up with a roommate. He was an elderly gentleman that had lived in the same town where my mother grew up, so we knew some of the same families. We talked for several hours and he told me about his beautiful marriage, his son (who lived 45 minutes away) and daughter (who lived a few states away), and his five grandchildren. He mentioned that his wife had been suffering from memory loss, something he had been hiding from his children.
During our discussion, he asked what I did for a living. When I told him, I worked in long-term care planning, he said his financial advisor told him he had enough money to self-insure the LTC risk.
That afternoon, he became increasingly paranoid and delusional. I learned he was suffering from Sun Downer syndrome; a common phenomenon where dementia symptoms suddenly appear and grow worse late in the day into evening.
I was released soon after and was always curious what had happened to him and his family. A few years later I ran into an acquaintance we both knew. It turns out a social worker had determined that he and his wife were both suffering from different types of dementia, and it was no longer safe for them to live by themselves at home.
The events that followed are the potential side effects of needing LTC.
The daughter flew home to care for her parents and wanted them to remain in a home setting. The son felt the parents should be in a facility, so even though he lived much closer, he didn't lift a finger to help with their care. The siblings started arguing about how they were spending their parent's money, and what type of care they needed. This caused such a strain on the sibling's relationship that to this day, they no longer speak.
The man I met didn't know what was going on at the end, however, I believe he would be more devastated to learn that his kids have not seen each other since his funeral, that his grandchildren will not grow to know their cousins, the everyday pain and anguish his daughter went through providing their care, than to learn the money was all gone.
This was the toll of not having a plan for LTC, and the burden to fund it had on his entire family. Unfortunately, this story is all too common.
To help overcome obstacle #2, I've included some questions you can ask your clients to start the conversation around LTC, along with common objections and how to answer them:
Have you thought about the impact of living a long life and possibly needing care?
Objection: My spouse will take care of me.
Response: Of course, they will if they are able to. However, it has been my experience that by the time you are old and frail, your spouse likely is too. The majority of caregivers in these situations are children, grandchildren, or other younger family members.
Have you thought about the impact of providing prolonged care to you or your spouse will have on your children?
Objection: We don't want our children providing care for us.
Response: I completely understand, however, they may have little choice but to do so. Children are generally going to be involved anyway. Let’s develop a plan that would take the everyday burden of providing care off of them and allow them to be in more of a supervisory role.
Objection: Our kids will take care of us.
Response: Of course, they will. We can still work together to develop a plan that helps them do that better, longer and even pay them to do so.
Long-Term Care can be a difficult topic to discuss with your clients. I hope this information will help you have a more open and honest discussion with them about the benefits of LTC and potential impact of not having a plan in place.
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1Long-Term Care Experience for Genworth Life Insurance Company and affiliates, 1974-2017.
2"Median Cost of Care Trends & Insights" Genworth Cost of Care Survey based on 4.3 average years care.