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Life Health > Long-Term Care Planning

Tips for Starting the Long-Term Care Discussion With Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • Do your clients understand their odds of needing care?
  • Do they know what long-term care costs?
  • Have you talked to them about what Medicare and Medicaid can, and cannot, cover?

It’s November, which means the arrival of Long-Term Care Awareness Month.

Each year, this month presents an excellent opportunity for financial professionals to have meaningful conversations with clients about long-term care (LTC) and the importance of planning ahead for such expenses in retirement.

Long-term care is a general term for a wide range of services that a person may need if they’re chronically ill, making them unable to independently perform at least two of the six activities of daily living: bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting and transferring (for example, getting in and out of a chair or bed).

Developing a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can also lead to someone needing long-term care.

This can be a sensitive topic for some clients.

However, long-term care planning is an important part of a well-rounded financial plan for retirement.

According to a January 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 56% of the U.S. population turning 65 today is expected to require long-term care.

The report also notes that, for those turning 65 today, the average projected length of an LTC event is 2.8 years and the average lifetime cost of LTC is $298,000.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that a person’s cost of care will be determined by the specific services they will need.

It’s also worth noting that costs and inflation rates can vary by region.

Financial professionals can play a key role in helping clients prepare for the potential costs of long-term care.

By discussing options and tailoring a plan to meet their unique needs, financial professionals can position clients to better safeguard their retirement savings, creating more peace of mind for them and their loved ones.

Further, in opening a dialogue, financial professionals can help clients consider an event that many may find unpleasant and, therefore, avoid planning for.

The following are some ways that financial professionals can initiate a productive discussion with clients about long-term care.

With financial professionals’ expertise, clients can take important steps to help protect the retirement lifestyle they worked so hard to build.

How Does the Client Envision Retirement?

One way to broach the subject of long-term care is to ask clients what they envision their retirement years to be like.

Once clients share their goals for retirement, an opportunity is created to discuss how those plans could be impacted by the need for long-term care services.

Financial professionals can also ask clients where they would like to reside in their retirement years.

For example, are they planning to remain at home?

If so, what would happen if they experienced an LTC event?

Clients who plan for LTC costs will be better prepared for a long-term care event that might otherwise derail their retirement dreams.

Who Would Provide Care?

Many people are familiar with how challenging it can be to provide a loved one experiencing a long-term care event with the care they need.

Financial professionals can ask clients to consider who, if anyone, among their family members or friends would be able to provide long-term care for them.

For example, what if both spouses were to require long-term care at the same time?

By focusing the conversation on clients’ objectives for how they would want to receive care and exploring coverage options with them, financial professionals can help keep the LTC discussion a financial, rather than an emotional, one that may be more likely to empower clients to take action.

Do They Know What Care Costs?

As mentioned above, long-term care services can be costly.

However, many clients, especially those who haven’t yet experienced a loved one needing long-term care, may be unfamiliar with the costs of such care.

Financial professionals can ask clients what they know about LTC costs and the different types of care.

For example, are clients aware of what at-home care can cost versus around-the-clock care in a nursing facility?

The more informed clients are about long-term care costs and the various ways in which care can be provided, the better positioned they’ll be to incorporate LTC into their financial plans.

Ask Clients How They Would Fund Long-Term Care

For many people, a common misconception about long-term care is who pays for it.

Health insurance doesn’t pay for these services, nor does Medicare.

In order to take advantage of Medicaid coverage, which can vary by state, a person would need to meet income and asset limits.

That means that for some people, there may be only three viable options for paying for long-term care: paying out of pocket, relying on family finances or having LTC coverage, such as a traditional long-term care insurance policy or hybrid life insurance with LTC benefits.

Financial professionals can ask clients if they are aware of the options for paying for long-term care services to help identify any knowledge gaps that clients might have.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that not all clients, including those who are wealthy, may intend to self-fund LTC services.

Understanding how clients plan to pay for LTC costs can further assist financial professionals with crafting holistic plans for them.

While not every client will need long-term care, it’s critical for them to have a financial plan for LTC expenses because the future is unpredictable.

By engaging in conversation with clients about this topic, financial professionals can gain key insights to help clients find ways to fund the care that they may need.

The sooner clients begin to plan for long-term care expenses, the more options they’ll have, increasing their chances of aging on their own terms.

Myles J. Lambert. (Photo: Brighthouse)Myles J. Lambert is executive vice president and chief distribution and marketing officer at Brighthouse Financial.






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