“Getting parents and children together in a collaborative environment to talk about long term care insurance is an ideal situation,” says Dan Taylor, president of Wealth Capital Group in Charlotte, N.C.
Taylor is the author of “Parent Care Conversation” (Penguin Books, 2006), which provides advice for dealing with the emotional and financial challenges of aging parents. Taylor wrote the book after going through his own decision-making challenges when his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “You want to help facilitate a conversation about the parents’ future, and how they want to be cared for as they age.”
By actively engaging family members, an advisor can help his clients lessen the emotionally charged aspects of the issues and facilitate a productive discussion about long term care options. Here are six ways it can be done:
1. Basic education
“My job is to first generically educate my clients and their family members about long term care issues,” says Sally Leimbach, CLU, LTCP and CLTC, senior long term care consultant for Franklin Morris, a MassMutual affiliate in the Baltimore/Washington area. “I start at the very beginning by explaining that LTCI isn’t ‘nursing home insurance,’ as some people think, but a product that can help provide care at home or in an assisted living or nursing home facility. People who have evaluated the issues and made advance arrangements will have access to quality care and true choice about their preferred type of care. I also explain that for their individual financial situation, LTCI may be the right answer or only part of the answer.”
Leimbach presents a checklist of topics to cover during the meeting, providing her clients with an independent shoppers’ guide for LTCI, an up-to-date Medicare booklet and contact information for the appropriate state agencies. She also makes sure she discusses details like non-forfeiture options and potential premium increases.
2. Emphasize the positive
“I think advisors need to take the words ‘long term care’ and ‘elder care’ out of their vocabularies and never use them again,” Taylor says. “The reason I think LTC can be such a difficult sale is that it’s like selling funeral plans. People know they’re going to need a casket some day, but they don’t want to decide or think about it right now. Long term care is way down on most people’s lists, so I prefer to talk about LTCI as a ‘chronic illness funding alternative.’”
In a more lighthearted approach, Leimbach gives her customers a list of “20 good things that happen as you grow older.”
“Aging is a serious subject, but I also try to add a little humor to all of this,” she says. “There are things on the list like how you’re surer of yourself when you’re older; I want to put this in an optimistic context, which in turn helps people relax. I want to help my clients see that what they’re doing is positive, and it’s so good that they’re planning for their long term care now instead of waiting for a health crisis. I’ve also developed two ‘Top 10′ lists, with apologies to David Letterman; one is the ‘Top 10 excuses for not considering LTCI’ and the other is ‘Top 10 reasons why you should consider LTCI.’”
3. Nudge procrastinators
What about the customer who keeps putting off the decision to purchase a LTCI policy?
“I always raise the issue,” Taylor says. “I explain their decision to delay coverage in terms of what will happen to their children if they get sick: ‘At the worst possible moment, with every type of stress happening, your children are going to have to make very difficult decisions and take care of you; you’ve put them in a very traumatic situation during a crisis. If you don’t want to talk about this and plan for it, it severely limits your relationship.’”
Leimbach, who has specialized in long term care products for 15 years, shares real-life anecdotes about what happened to procrastinators. “I’ll talk about a client who put off the decision until it was too late; then he developed a chronic medical condition, and was no longer insurable,” she says. “I put that in context by sharing examples of how the policy helps people, too. For instance, I had a 64-year-old client, a retired schoolteacher who moved to a small village on the East Coast. Two years later she developed brain cancer, but she was able to receive care at a facility that was near where her daughter lived. My client lived another two years, she was covered the whole time and had excellent care, and her daughter was able to spend a lot of time with her.”