Whether you sell long-term care (LTC) planning services, life insurance, annuities or aluminum siding, many of your clients are already acting as caregivers for older loved ones.
You may be able to improve the lives of some of those clients by simply letting them know that respite care services exist.
About 7.5 million Americans care for loved ones over the age of 49 for an average of 41 or more hours per week, according to AARP and the National Alliance Caregiving (NAC).
When Public Policy Polling surveyed informal Alzheimer’s caregivers in 2012, it found that 25 percent were providing round-the-clock care.
Informal caregivers may give up interesting paid work, a chance to earn retirement plan matching contributions, and even a chance to build up Social Security benefits. But one of the most crushing burdens they face may be a lack of breaks.
Workers in paid jobs outside the home usually get vacation days, sick days, days off for holidays, and days off for jury duty. Informal caregivers often work under exhausting, emotionally draining conditions without even knowing that respite care — temporary care for frail or disabled adults, provided either in the home or in a facility — exists.
If you specialize in LTC planning, helping clients budget for respite care services for their own likely informal caregivers is a no-brainer. You may find that, as the size of America’s “oldest old” population increases, respite care planning and scheduling services will become a major business opportunity.
Even if you sell something entirely different, knowing a little about respite care may give you a chance to strengthen relationships with clients and prospects by providing valuable advice.
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For five basic things for insurance professionals to know about respite care services, read on.
1. The best respite care should give the caregiver a real break.
Alicia Blater, director of the Lifespan Respite Project at the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, recently gave a presentation on project findings during a webinar organized by three aging-related federal agencies.
She noted that 46 percent of caregivers have reported feeling a low level of satisfaction with the free time they have while using respite care. Some researchers found that caregivers who use their respite time to do what they planned seemed to feel better.
North Carolina respite project managers tried to use that information to improve caregivers’ satisfaction with respite care, by having them talk to the respite care providers about how they wanted to use their respite time.
Simply talking to the providers about respite time goals dramatically improved the caregivers’ satisfaction with their respite time, Blater said.
Blater said flexible respite programs may also increase respite programs’ value.
In some cases, she said, respite programs may schedule respite program slots based on when workers happen to be in the a caregiver’s area, not when the caregiver actually wants free time, Blater said, according to a transcript of her remarks.
“That type of scheduling removes the caregiver from being the true client sometimes and doesn’t set up the best beginning for successful respite use,” Blater said.
2. Caregivers who get a little of the right kind of respite care might be able to invest the free time in getting more help.
Blater said one topic to bring up with a caregiver is the idea of using respite time to hold a family meeting.
“Pull in all of your relatives,” Blater said. “Talk about what your needs are as a caregiver, what the needs are of the care recipient.”
Family members who know what the care recipient and the caregiver need may do more, and that may really help give the caregiver more free time, by increasing the amount of support the rest of the family regularly provides for the caregiver, Blater said.
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Image: TS/Alex Kalmbach
3. Google can show you how big the respite care market already is.
People who aren’t acting as informal caregivers, or formal LTC providers, may think of respite care as an obscure health care services topic of little interest to insurance professionals.
Insurance professionals who search for the term “respite care,” or the term “respite care” along with the name of a big city, will see that Google returns a list of results that includes many paid ads.
Searching for “respite care” and Chicago returns results that include nine paid ads. Repeating the search with “Kansas City” as the city returns a list that includes 10 paid ads.
LTC planners who enjoy helping clients with the care planning aspects as well as the insurance arrangements may find that they can charge clients for help with locating suitable respite care providers, or that they can form marketing relationships with the respite care providers.
4. The ARCH National Respite Network offers state respite coalition contact information and other respite community resources.
Access to Respite Care and Help (ARCH) has developed a website that offers information about respite care services, and links to many other resources.
For insurance professionals who want to learn more about local respite care resources, the most valuable section of the site might be a page that lists state respite coalition contacts and state respite coalition fact sheets.
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5. A little extra money can make everything easier.
In a page of answers to common questions about respite care, ARCH says families may be able to pay for respite care by using grant-supported pilot programs that are free for the caregivers, Medicare hospice benefits, Medicaid waiver program benefits, or, in some cases, long-term care insurance (LTCI) benefits.
Wouldn’t it be great if, if one of your clients was ever in a position to arrange for respite care, the client could pay for the services using insurance or other arrangements set up in advance, rather than having to jump through hoops to qualify at the last minute for government programs that might not really do quite what the client wants?
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