As advisors, it is essential we help our clients prepare for life’s storms while the skies are clear. We must identify and confront the storms our clients could face in life—like a chronic long-term illness. A solid eldercare plan is essential to a family surviving this potentially devastating occurrence. A chronic long-term illness has the potential to destroy more than a family's savings and estate value—it can destroy the whole family.
I live in Florida, in one of the counties that within days experienced direct hits from hurricanes Frances and then Jeanne. Houses were pummeled by winds and rain; some couldn't stand the pressure and collapsed or blew away. We prepare each June for the hurricane season, which lasts until the end of November. When the radar screens are clear with no signs of tropical depressions we inspect the hurricane shutters and check medical, food and battery supplies. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best, knowing we can prepare physically, but not mentally. We wait, pray and hope we are prepared to survive the storm.
In times of crisis, it is essential you have a plan to follow. This is especially true when providing care for an aging family member. Six years ago, tragedy struck our family when the health of two family members rapidly declined. They were both diagnosed with chronic long-term illnesses that would ravage their minds and bodies. We didn't know where to start or who to call, and were caught completely unprepared. Nothing was in order, no care-giving plans established, no family roles defined—it was a mess. We stumbled along wondering if we were on the right track.
Have a plan
Although it is possible to develop a plan in the midst of a crisis, advance preparation is a necessity. A successful eldercare plan addresses more than financial and risk management; it provides peace of mind for both the client and the advisor. Peace of mind for your client means knowing he is ready to face the storm. Peace of mind for you, as the advisor, means knowing that whichever way the winds blow, your client will survive the storm intact.
Below I have compiled 10 eldercare-planning tips as a place for you and your clients to start. Take time to prepare for this part of life as though an eldercare storm is already on the horizon. Your clients will be thankful you developed a plan that will keep their families together in the midst of the storm.
1. Develop a long-term housing plan. Hold a family meeting and discuss
current lifestyle preferences and long-range living accommodations.
2. Complete a medical, financial and legal inventory. List names, numbers and locations of all legal documents and financial account information, along with contact information for all professional relationships, such as doctors, financial planners, insurance agents, attorneys, accountants, etc.
3. Make sure legal documents are in order and readily available.
4. Complete a caregiver resource inventory listing family, friends, neighbors, social and religious organizations and professional medical help.
5. Transfer long-term care risk to a long-term care insurance policy. An LTCI policy can relieve some of the financial pressures so families can focus on arranging the best possible care for their aging loved ones.
6. Look for community resources that can provide relief to caregivers.
7. Define emergency contact roles and maintain open communication within the family.
8. Know when it is time to intervene. Look for anything that might be out of the ordinary from financial, to behavioral, to physical changes.
9. Start with a doctor. Get a diagnosis for any potential physical or cognitive impairment.
10. “Senior proof” your house. Closely monitor interior and exterior areas for safety concerns.
Diane Clark, CFP, ChFC, CLTC, president of Eldercare Transition Services Inc., holds eldercare planning workshops in Florida. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 772-220-1415.