The vast majority of people will be a caregiver at some point in their lives. If you help with what may seem like simple tasks—like taking a loved one to a doctor appointment, picking up groceries or mowing the lawn—you are a caregiver. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, the number of adults providing unpaid care jumped from 43.5 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020, a 22% increase in just five years.
While siblings, spouses, children, parents and friends can all be recipients of caregiving, older adults, especially those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, make up a substantial portion of those requiring long-term care. As the aging population continues to grow, the number of people living with these conditions is bound to rise as well.
Proactive planning with clients and their loved ones before health complications arise can help alleviate stress through what could be a long care journey. Discussing these five questions for both your clients and for those who may someday need their care will put them on the path to having their wishes documented and a plan in place.
Where Are You Going to Live?
The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener for many that they can be faced with a healthcare emergency or care event at any time. It also shifted a lot of individual’s perspectives on nursing homes and care facilities. There was an almost 10% decrease in senior home occupancy between 2020 and 2021 as many people chose to have their loved ones live with them rather than staying in care facilities.
For those wishing to remain in their own home longer, leveraging technology may help. There are tools to help with medication management, sensors that alert whether the stove was turned off or the door was locked at night and even mats that can be placed next to the bed to alert caregivers when their loved one is awake and going about their day.
Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists can also be a resource as they’re trained to come into the home and make modifications to make it safe and livable for older loved ones. These can be excellent options to give peace of mind to both those giving and receiving care when not physically together.
How Are You Going to Pay for Care?
The average cost of caring for an aging relative is about $500 out of pocket per month, not to mention the impact of lost wages and lost contributions to retirement benefits that arise from time away from work.
Preparing for these costs will help alleviate the financial burden on the caregiver. Advisors can help clients bring together the full picture of resources at their disposal such as health and long-term care insurance, retirement savings, real estate assets and government benefits.
On the other hand, older adults are a frequent target of fraud, which can sometimes be perpetrated by their caregiver. Documenting a detailed plan that includes whether and when a caregiver receives distributions from the client both during their life and afterwards will ensure that their assets are being used as intended.
How Will You Get Around and Spend Your Time?
Studies show that socialization is one of the most effective ways for older adults to improve both their mental and physical health. According to the American Public Health Association, socialization improves mood, cognition, memory recall and is associated with healthy behaviors such as exercise. Clients should consider how they want to continue their social lives while receiving care, either through technology like video chats or in-person.
Transportation can be a help or hinderance in socialization and general quality of life for older adults, and it’s considered the second-biggest expense in retirement, after housing. Ride-sharing services are an option for those who can no longer drive and can save caregivers time running pickups and drop offs. Some ride-share apps have been created with caregivers specifically in mind, where they can order rides on someone else’s behalf and get alerts about a trip’s progress.
Proximity to healthcare facilities and accessible public transportation should also be taken into account. For instance, an older adult living an hour outside of town with a Parkinson’s diagnosis will find it cumbersome and unrealistic to travel to and from doctor visits regularly.
Who Will Be Your Support Team?
While family members often take on caregiver roles for one another, that may not always be an option, or they may need additional support. This is especially true for those in the sandwich generation, who take on caregiving for both young children and older adults in their lives. Additionally, one in three caregivers are providing care while struggling with their own health issues, according to CDC data.
There are professional senior or geriatric care managers who may be enlisted to help by coordinating the right care providers, whether that’s through home health care or care facilities. They can find and vet professional caregivers, particularly those with specialized skills. For example, a caregiver who can speak multiple languages in order to translate between the care receiver and their doctors.
What Other Help Will You Need?
The designated person to make decisions about an individual’s healthcare may not be the same person suited to handle their legal, financial, insurance and other affairs. Too much crossover can cause undue stress on the caregiver and, at times, a conflict of interest. If, for instance, they must decide between private care versus a caregiving facility and the cost impacts the caregiver’s inheritance. Documentation should be created while the care receiver is in a position to do so, naming who will handle decision-making in each aspect of their life to avoid these issues.
The emotional and practical aspects of caregiving are not always easy to broach with clients, but all of these issues have financial implications. Financial advisors are in a unique position to start the planning early. Communication is essential to accurately convey the client’s intentions and avoid family discord later and facilitating a family meeting is a helpful place to start to talk about each adult’s wishes should a care event happen. Most clients will ultimately agree that they’d rather be the ones who dictate what happens if the circumstances arise and take the burden off their loved ones of making tough decisions on their behalf.
Amanda Stahl is the Director of Longevity Planning at Raymond James, connecting financial advisors with longevity planning resources to help clients and their families plan for the caregiving and healthcare needs related to longer lifespans. She has an M.S. in Gerontology from the University of Florida and a Graduate Certificate in Aging and Geriatric Practice from the University of Florida College of Medicine.