(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Long-term care continues to grow as a national challenge for millions of families nationwide. In fact, two-thirds of people over age 65 will need long-term care in their lifetimes, according to the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information. For the millions of family caregivers who need help finding and coordinating care, I see a real opportunity for the trusted advisor.

What’s a trusted advisor? The trusted advisor is that person families turn to when they need advice about a particularly thorny issue. It could be an insurance broker or agent, a financial planner or banker, a minister, friend or relative. Those thorny issues can be tricky to address because they so often lie outside an advisor’s area of expertise. Finding care for an aging loved one is increasingly becoming one of those issues.

If you serve as a trusted advisor, you have an opportunity to help your clients navigate their long-term care needs while strengthening their trust in you. Key to your success will be an understanding of the aging population, the emergence of a new kind of caregiver, and the growing sophistication of caregiving support services.

Growing Market, New Demands

Because Americans are living longer, long-term care is becoming one of the fastest growing segments in health care. In response, new services are introduced every day. As parents and grandparents live into their 80s and beyond, their wish lists, which often start with aging at home, create the need for new and varied services that take into considerations changes in living space, safety, case management, transportation, financial planning, and so on.

If you serve families who are facing a caregiving situation, you should be preparing now for this aging population boom.

A New Kind of Client

The family caregiver is usually a middle-aged woman sandwiched between two generations, often overwhelmed with choices, buried in information, strapped for time, and anxious to find help. She’s not alone. There are millions like her, and she’s becoming aware that coordinating care requires more than searching the Internet for caregiving options. She wants education, support and assistance about caregiving, and access to long-term care providers who show their commitment to openly disclose services, credentials and depth of expertise.

This new kind of caregiver wants help and advice to guide decisions about living arrangements, care assessments, payment sources, provider options, and work-life balance.

Caregiving Support Services

If you want to become a trusted advisor for caregivers, you first need to understand the landscape of caregiving support services. Public websites abound featuring searchable databases of public agencies, such as the Area Agencies on Aging, elder affairs, Medicaid, adult protective services, and more. In the business sector, there are a variety of care coordination services that will contract with you to find senior housing, or retrofit a senior’s home with handrails, ramps and so on. Then there are medical websites to help caregivers understand and manage health conditions facing a loved one. In short, caregivers have options, but they can become easily overwhelmed, and often are.

My company is working with AARP to take another approach to caregiving services. We’ve tried integrating all three steps of the caregiving process—care assessment, care planning and provider matching—and making it easy for families to connect with us in the way they want—in person, on the phone, or over the Web.

The results have been positive. Genworth is helping long-distance caregivers, empty nester caregivers, large families, caregiver-spouses and people who are managing their own care. As the number of caregivers grows, the role and value of the trusted advisor will only grow in importance.

So, it’s your move, trusted advisor. What are you going to tell your next family caregiver?