Compassionate hands (Photo: Thinkstock)

Parental leave has prompted national conversations over the last several years and gotten the attention of big-name companies. However, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, among adults who were employed in the past two years, more time was taken off work to care for a sick family member (11%) than following the birth or adoption of a child (7%).

The “sandwich generation” — those people caring for both children and aging parents — makes up much of the workforce, and helps to explain why more people have taken time off to care for an ailing family member. This generation is facing the difficulty of being financially responsible for their families while also providing care to a spouse who has become ill, caring for a loved one with a severe cognitive impairment or caring for a child or aging parent with a serious health condition.

(Related: Individual Disability Insurance Can Help Family Caregivers)

When this happens, it can be one of the most stressful and complicated times in your client’s life. You can help simplify the situation by preparing your clients financially with new individual disability insurance (IDI) products. Some communication and preparation now may be what your clients need to get through one of the toughest times later in their life.

What is a family caregiving benefit?

Choosing an IDI product that has family caregiving benefits can help a client take the time he or she needs to focus on family caregiving responsibilities without worrying about their income. This allows a client — who’s loved one faces a serious health condition — the time and ability to help with their care.

The popular assumption is that only a policyowner’s disability is covered by an IDI policy. While that’s still true for many policies, some now include family caregiving benefits. It’s important to highlight this benefit to your clients when they’re evaluating different policies. Explain to clients that family caregiving benefits can allow a client to receive monthly payments for experiencing a loss of income when taking time away from work to care for a loved one — a spouse, domestic partner, parent or child — who’s facing a serious, long-term health condition.

How does your client use the benefit?

Once your client chooses an IDI policy with a family caregiving benefit, you can help make sure they know how to use it. To help a client use the benefit to its fullest, it’s important to break down how to file a claim. To file a caregiving claim, the process is similar to submitting a regular IDI claim. Your client will need to provide information regarding the loved one’s condition and demonstrate a loss of time and earnings in his or her occupation.

You also can help by making sure that your client is equipped with the following:

  • The phone number of the claims department. This is for initiating the claim and any follow-up questions or conversations.
  • An understanding of the type of information that will be needed. For notice of claim, this generally includes:

o What is the relationship of the loved one to the client?

o What is the cause of the claim?

o When did the condition begin?

o Where should correspondence and benefits be sent?

  • An understanding of the forms that will be sent to the client and their loved one for completion. At a minimum, these include an Insured’s Statement, an Attending Physician’s Statement and an Authorization Form.

One of the most important things to understand is timing — not only for filing the claim but for relevant policy provisions. For some policies, the loved one’s health condition is used to satisfy the benefit waiting period. The waiting period can vary by policy, with some benefit waiting periods as short as 30 days while others could be much longer — 180 days or more.

But that doesn’t mean that a client should wait that amount of time to inform the carrier. It’s important for a client to connect with the IDI carrier right away, and not wait until the waiting period has been exhausted. This way, the claim evaluation process can begin and the claims team can be prepared to share a decision and provide any benefits that are payable in a timely manner.

Relieve the burden

As more clients find themselves in the sandwich generation, more and more will face the burden of having to work while providing full-time care for an ailing family member. Help relieve some of this burden by preparing clients ahead of time with financial protection via family caregiving benefits. With this new IDI benefit, you can help your clients prepare for those difficult times and therefore allow them to focus on the people who are important to them, without worrying about income

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Sophia Horsman (Photo: Standard_

Sophia Horsman is the senior director of IDI claims at Standard Insurance Company. She is a member of the Education and Disability committees of the International Claim Association.