Despite our increasingly interconnected world, physical distance still causes many issues experienced by aging family members to be underestimated or missed entirely.
“If you look not just at the rate of cognitive decline but you look at by the age of 85 roughly 50 percent of people have a diagnosis of some form of dementia. It’s a risk not only to the individual, it’s a family issue, it’s a risk to advisors and a risk to firms,” explains Joanna Gordon Martin, founder and CEO of Theia Senior Solutions, a concierge elder care consultancy.
With the holiday season upon us, many clients are looking forward to (or dreading) spending some quality time with their extended families, which offers an excellent opportunity for clients to check in on their elder loved ones and address these risks.
That being said, before your clients can take the initiative to inquire about how their family members are doing, they first need to be aware of the need to do so. Even for those who are cognizant of the issues, elder care is a complex issue, and although many clients may feel they’ve already had these discussions, chances are they may have missed an important element or three.
“The costs involved, financially, emotionally and from a time-perspective can be incredibly excessive for people,” Gordon-Martin notes.
Here’s an 8-point checklist, created by Theia Senior Solutions, of questions that advisors can ask their clients in order to get them ready to have these impactful conversations.
- Are your parents still living on their own?
- Where do you live in relation to your parents?
- Have you noticed your loved ones needing help with daily activities?
- When visiting your parents, have you noticed bills starting to pile up?
- Have you had any conversation about long-term care and the ability to pay for it with your parents.?
- Do you have all of the information you would need to act on behalf of your parent/spouse in the event of an emergency?
- Is the stress of taking care of your parent/spouse taking its toll on your ability to function effectively?
- Have you had to rearrange your schedule or take time off from work to address an issue due to your loved one’s aging?
However, as the saying goes, “Knowing is only half the battle.” It’s important to appreciate, despite a client’s best intentions, that these conversations can be difficult to start and may be met with resistance or, potentially, hostility. Even if relatively well received, such uncomfortable lines of questioning often have limited shelf lives, so it’s important that your clients ask the right questions to get the most relevant information they can even if the window is small. Here are some good examples.
- How and where would you like to age?
- Have you had a conversation with your family about aging?
- Are you having any trouble maintaining the homes you own with your current help?
- Are you concerned with your ability to care for your spouse as you both age?
- Do you expect your family members to act as your caregivers?
- If you had a medical emergency, could someone locate all of your critical documents quickly?
- Do you have an identified patient advocate should you become ill?
- Do you have advanced directives in place in case of a crisis?
- Do those closest to you know your end of life wishes?
- Have you consulted anyone to help you navigate long-term care or other eldercare resources?
Ultimately, Gordon-Martin stresses that “You never have to be too old for a better quality of life.” Clients just need to be educated and emboldened enough to do their part to help out.