At some point in our lives, most of us are likely to need some kind of long-term care support. But although people find it easy to talk about the experiences of a friend or family member who is going through a long-term care event, they are reluctant to have a conversation about their own need for care.
That was the word from Jeff Levin, OneAmerica vice president of distribution, who spoke during a National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors webinar on Monday.
OneAmerica collaborated with Hanover Research to conduct a survey to better understand consumer behavior and thoughts surrounding long-term care planning. The survey found most consumers are not discussing long-term care with a professional. Only 18% of those surveyed said they have worked with an advisor to plan for long-term care.
“It’s not that they don’t want to talk about long-term care, it’s that they don’t want to talk about the prospect that they will need care.” — Jeff Levin, OneAmerica vice president of distribution
“It’s not that they don’t want to talk about long-term care, it’s that they don’t want to talk about the prospect that they will need care,” Levin said. “But they will talk about a friend, a neighbor a family member who needs care, about how much it costs, how long it will be needed. But they’re not talking about themselves and not taking action about their own care.”
Levin said family members hold the most influence in the long-term care discussion, followed by financial advisors and physicians. “But few of them are having the conversation. Our survey showed four out of five would benefit from you just having a conversation."
Consumers already are working with advisors to plan for retirement, and long-term care planning must be tied in to retirement planning, Levin said.
The survey showed 86% of respondents said planning for retirement is most important in thinking about their future, followed by eliminating debt (74%) and establishing an emergency fund (68%). Only 48% said long-term care planning was most important to their future.
Protect what's been planned
“What needs to be included in the conversation is that long-term planning is to protect what they’ve already done in their planning,” Levin said. “When we discuss retirement, it’s usually in context of living after we’ve concluded our career. But when you discuss emergency funds, it’s often tied to an emergency event such as a long-term care event. Three out of these four concerns are about some concern relating to long-term care.”
But “where the wheels start to fall off the bus,” Levin said, is a gap between long-term care expectations versus realities.
The survey found 79% of consumers said they expect either their partner or their children to provide them with care. Yet 69% of consumers with first-hand knowledge of a close family member’s long-term care experience said the care recipient’s planning was not sufficient.
“Consumers don’t talk to people outside their family members abut long-term care,” Levin said. “They say they don’t want to be a burden to their family but they do plan on needing help from a family member. But they know it’s not enough planning.”
Clients want and need help planning for long-term care, Levin said. But that doesn’t mean every client must by long-term care insurance.
“Many can’t purchase it because of health reasons; they’re not an insurable risk,” he said. “But I believe you can help make clients make an educated decision by looking at a variety of solutions.”
Reframe the conversation
Don’t lead the long-term care conversation by discussing the need for care as a health concern, Levin advised. Instead, reframe the conversation by discussing long-term care and income. The top concern of retirement is outliving savings. Describe how planning for long-term care can preserve funds.
Four words, used in a single sentence, can kick-start the long-term care conversation, Levin said. Those four words are:
The sentence: I can show you an effective way to create greater efficiency while maintaining access and control over your money and care.
“All the facts and figures don’t mean anything if they are not discussed with clients,” Levin said. “The best long-term care solution is one that is well-thought out and based on an educated decision. The best long-term care solution is the one that is in place the day you need care, so you can focus on your loved ones without physical and emotional strain or monetary concerns.
“But nothing starts without a conversation, and we are in the business of having courageous conversations.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.