Because I am presently heavily involved in the financial services sector, many of you may not be aware of my former experience in the family caregiving arena. I know what caregivers do on a daily basis: from meal preparation, house maintenance, shopping, to personal care – assistance with bathing, toileting, and dressing. They help with transferring, transportation, banking and every other task you can think of that a chronically ill, aging or frail individual may need help with.
Family caregivers are not paid, trained and have not been properly supported or acknowledged by governments. There is no 1- 800 number they can call in the middle of the night when a demented parent decides to walk out into the winter night wearing only pajamas, or a frail spouse falls and cannot get up.
Women hit the hardest by caregiving
The majority of caregivers are women, although men are catching up. As a result, women have to pay special attention to long term care planning. The Allianz Women, Money & Power Study (2006) found that a vast majority of women (90%) feel financially insecure, despite the fact they are more educated, more involved in financial decisions, and are controlling more of the wealth than ever before. Along with this financial insecurity is a tremendous fear of becoming a bag lady. About half (46%) of women had this fear – surprisingly enough, almost half (48%) of women with $100,000+ incomes felt this way.
Another reason: Women tend to put others before themselves and end up becoming caregivers for frail parents or ill spouses. This can result in a drop-out from the work force for a few months or many years, resulting in lost wages, pension and career opportunities.
Finally a Stats Canada study called The Death of a Spouse and the Impact on Income found that 72 percent of older women of all income levels suffer income loss when their spouse dies. Five years after the death of the husband, the richest widows experienced an 8.6 per cent decline, compared with a 9.8 per cent drop among the poorest.
Widowed women accounted for 45 per cent of all women older than 65. Senior widows outnumbered senior widowers by four to one. Further, women have a life expectancy of 81 years, compared to 75 years for men, so women are expected increasingly to live alone in their senior years.
What professional advisors can and should do:
Your caregiving action plan.
This summer would be an ideal time to connect with your clients – for another good reason. (The first good reason is outlined in our special report released in December 2008 entitledFocus on what you can control.)
The second reason is to determine which of your clients are caregivers, if you do not already know. Offer to have a meeting during which you can describe your commitment to understanding the caregiving needs of your clients and to offer help and resources.
Here is a sample of questions you might ask your clients:
- Is caregiving affecting your health? Your work? Your family life?
- How are you funding unexpected care costs?
- Are you aware of the tax considerations offered to Canadian caregivers?
- Are you aware I have a long term care library with resources I am sure can be of help?
- Is all the personal, social, medical and financial information related to (your father) organized and stored in one place for easy access?
If you discover there has been a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, it is imperative that advance care planning begin immediately.
Caregiving tools available to advisors and your clients
In addition, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want help with:
- Learning more about caregiving and how to help your clients
- Building a caregiving resource library
- Building a network of care professionals upon whom you can call for help when necessary
- Developing and presenting a client caregiving seminar (Karen has recently developed a session entitled Financial Caregiving)
I believe the time has passed when advisors could function effectively without understanding a client’s life beyond the dollars and cents. The successful advisors of today and tomorrow are those who take a holistic approach to financial, lifestyle or transition planning. Who knows, you may be the first to see the writing on the wall and decide that clients with present or future caregiving responsibilities should become your preferred practice niche.