Sue Cook used to sell long-term care insurance (LTCI) and other insurance products at a bank in Kokomo, Ind.
Now, she provides the long-term care (LTC) services.
Cook has been the president and owner of the Homewatch CareGivers of Summerlin franchise in Las Vegas since 2009.
See also: 4 things to know: Continuing care at home.
She grew up on a farm in Greentown, Ind., in a house next to an aunt and uncle who had no children. She watched her grandmother take care of a great-grandmother who lived to be 95. She later took care of the aunt for 15 years. “It gets to the point where you’re there three times a day,” Cook said.
When Cook’s aunt moved into an assisted living facility and Cook visited, she began to take an interest in helping other older people.
Many of the people who now use her services once worked for the federal government, or were relatives who worked for the federal government, and more than half of the clients have private LTCI.
Her experience makes her one of the rare people who have seen both the world of LTCI and the world of the LTC provider from the inside.
To learn more about her thoughts for the colleagues still working as LTCI agents, read on.
1. Producers who become providers need to be passionate about taking care of older people.
“Most people go into home care because of personal experience taking care of an elder loved one,” Cook said. “That’s why I got into the business, and oftentimes that’s how people are first introduced to this industry. It helped my learning curve to have the background, but the greater meaning of taking care of our aging population is what really drew me to this work.”
Agents and brokers who are thinking of possibly becoming providers themselves should genuinely like people and enjoy taking care of them, Cook said.
“There has to be a certain passion about the job itself to do it well,” she said.
Image: AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle.
See also: The noblest profession.
2. Like good LTCI agents, good LTC providers need to know what to do in a crisis.
Agents often get urgent calls from desperate adult children of LTCI policyholders — or possible LTCI policyholders — who are trying to figure out how — or whether — parents made any LTC funding arrangements.
Cook gets calls, sometimes from adult children, who know they have to do something, immediately, but have only a vague idea of what happens to older people who can no longer live at home alone.
3. Would-be LTC providers need to do their homework.
Passion is important, but would-be providers also know what the laws and regulations are, and how franchising works, Cook said.
Cook said working in the insurance industry is good preparation for would-be LTC providers, because agents have more than a little first-hand experience with government regulation.
4. Long-term care insurance (LTCI) generally works well.
Cook said she has heard others complain about serious problems with getting LTCI claims but has rarely seen her own customers experience serious LTCI claim payment problems.
One challenge is that each policy is a little different from every other policy, Cook said.
But Cook said the policies seem to perform as they should, and that she can usually clear up any problems by having the insureds’ or their relatives call the carriers, or by going to their homes and helping them make the calls.
“We really haven’t seen a lot of issues,” Cook said.
5. Many consumers still need basic LTC education.
Cook said one of her main jobs is to handle panicked calls from the adult children of people who need care. Many of those adult children have no idea that home care services, adult daycare services or respite care services exist, let alone how much those services cost, she said.
One of the best services LTCI agents can perform is simply to educate consumers about how long-term care works, she said.
She said she sees scenarios in which fewer and fewer people have the funds to pay for a good quality of life as they age. People who have the ability to find ways to pay for their own care must, she said.
“I don’t think you can always look to someone else,” Cook said.
But you can look to some thing else — LTCI.