Quick tips for having "the conversation"
Talking to your clients about long-term care
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people are living their lives and is causing them to reevaluate their future needs and plans. Health concerns are top of mind, especially for those who have older parents. They know that older persons, especially those who are in need of long-term care, are at high risk of catching the virus. They may be thinking more about their own aging now and what they should do to protect themselves and their families.
As a financial professional, this is a good time to have the often-difficult conversation about long-term care and where it fits into their retirement plan. To help you get started, we’ve included tips from Dr. Sandra Timmermann, a nationally recognized gerontologist and expert on aging and retirement. We are pleased to work with you to provide you with information on retirement issues and addressing clients’ potential need for long-term care.
Here are a few tips for having “the conversation”:
- Initiate the discussion early.
Talk to your clients when they are 50 or 55 years of age as part of their retirement planning discussions, instead of waiting until clients are elderly and need long-term care.
- Clarify the purpose of the meeting — and include family, if possible.
Contact your clients about setting up a meeting to talk about their long-term care needs and costs and end-of-life wishes — and ask them to include key family members. As a neutral party, you can help them talk about these sensitive topics.
- Talk about documents.
Start the discussion by talking about documents your clients should have in place as they age, such as power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and a will or trust, as well as how long-term care can affect their retirement plans. By starting with these more straightforward topics, you can help your clients lead into more emotional topics of needing long-term care and aging.
- Keep the discussion respectful and ongoing.
Your job will be to uncover information and opinions, so use good listening skills and don’t rush to provide advice. Your clients will probably need to reconvene a number of times before they’re ready to make decisions or find solutions, so be patient and schedule another meeting if time runs out and decisions haven’t been made. Let them know it’s okay to go home and think about it for a while.
- Ask questions.
Help your clients figure out what they need and want by asking questions like: Where do you want to live as you get older? If you need care, how would you like it to be performed, and by whom? If you want to age at home, how will that work? How will you pay for care? Who will make decisions if you are incapacitated and need medical treatment?
- Let them tell stories.
This is a good time for parents to provide information about how they see their future and how they’d like to live as they age — as well as sharing stories, traditions, values and lessons with their adult children.
- When you’re ready to talk about strategies, work backwards.
It may work well to start with the hard topics, such as end-of-life wishes, then work your way to a discussion of transitioning into retirement. After getting through the tough topics, your clients may be relieved and more open to other topics, such as long-term care and, in the end, plans for how and where they’ll retire.
- Remember, your role is to be a neutral, objective voice.
As a financial professional, you can help your clients by being a neutral, objective voice, and putting the conversation in the context of retirement planning, which is much easier to talk about than aging, sickness and disabilities. By involving the adult children, you help your clients get through difficult discussions, make decisions that will affect them later in life, and make a plan for how they’ll age with dignity.
When your clients have a plan for how they want to live as they age — including potential long-term care needs and costs — they will feel more confident in their ability to live comfortably in retirement. As a financial professional, you can help them get “the conversation” started and keep it going until they’re ready to make decisions and find solutions.
For additional articles from Dr. Timmermann, visit equitable.com/life-insurance/articles/timmermann
Sources: Retirement Savings and Spending: Behaviors and Attitudes Toward Retirement, T Rowe Price, 2019; Survey of Widows and Widower, The American College of Financial Services, 2016.
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