by Karen Henderson
There is a Sufi saying that two veils separate us from the divine—health and security. As we age, we begin to understand how these two words start to define what is truly important in life.
According to Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, for a couple who is 65 today, there is a 50 percent chance at least one of them will live to 90 and a 22 percent chance one will reach 95.
With advanced age, however, often come disability and loss of independence caused by chronic illness. On average, the majority of us now live the last 10 to 12 years of our lives with disabilities, many of them the result of chronic illness. According to a recent Globe and Mail article by Andre Picard, chronic diseases pose a greater threat than a pandemic flu (www.theglobeandmail.com).
Why? Over 80 percent of the population aged 65 and over living at home has been diagnosed as having a chronic health condition. Over 40 percent of people aged 65 and over living at home have arthritis and rheumatism. Over 30 percent have high blood pressure, 22 percent have food or other allergies, 17 percent have back problems, 16 percent have chronic heart problems, 15 percent have cataracts, and 10 percent have diabetes. (National Advisory Council on Aging: www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-003-SIE/2005000/pdf/82-003-SIE20050007443.pdf.)[LINK]
Falls pose a particular threat to the aging. Among those aged 65 years and older, 85 percent of all injury-related hospital admissions were due to falls. A fall can be the beginning of the end because so many other adverse events result from a fall, including hip fractures, isolation, admission to a nursing home, or death.
In my opinion, Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are the diseases of the 21st century. The greatest risk factor is age; approximately 35 percent of those over age 85 will suffer from some type of dementia.
Chronic illness eventually leads to long-term care and gradual loss of independence. How long does long-term care last? The real answer is, no one knows. We do not have statistics on how long home care lasts, but the average stay in a long-term care facility or nursing home is about 2.5 years. My own personal-care experience lasted 14 years: my father stayed in his own home for 10 years and in facilities for 4 years.
Other Areas of Loss
Loss of independence leads to loss in many other areas of life. Physical losses include loss of mobility and the resulting loss of freedom. Social and psychological losses include less interaction with others, a reduced quality of life, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
In addition, financial loss resulting from chronic illness and loss of independence can be crippling for a number of reasons. Job loss resulting from illness or from being a caregiver can be devastating, particularly for women who leave the workforce for many years to care for parents or a spouse, losing both salary and future pension earnings.
Finally—and perhaps most sadly—because we do not plan for aging, we have no idea how much care costs, how much money we may need, or how we should go about saving for long-term care.
How Advisors Can Help
"Chance favors the prepared mind."
—Louis Pasteur (1822–1895)
In my view, today (and the next 20 years) is the best time to be a financial advisor. I see the tipping point (a sociological term that refers to the moment when something unique becomes common) on the horizon for long-term care, due to recent health care legislation, and the convergence of demographics, spiraling health care costs, and a baby boomer generation that wants to control its destiny—and quality and accessibility of health care. There are ways for financial advisors to help their clients prepare for possible loss of independence.
Become knowledgeable about the health care system, in particular the long-term care system—its components and costs.
Educate your clients. Discuss long-term care with all of your clients, regardless of age. Better planning means better preparation, because a health care crisis can occur at any age. Suggest a family meeting now, before such a crisis occurs.
Ask your clients the tough questions, which include:
1. How do you see yourself aging?
2. If you were faced with a long-term care need tomorrow, where would the money come from to pay for it?
3. Have you had a discussion with your children or spouse about how long-term care services would be provided and paid for if you needed care?
- Look for clues to their future:
- Did your parents live long lives?
- Does Alzheimer's disease run in your family?
4. Understand terms and definitions of services such as home
care, retirement home care, and nursing home care.
5. Commit yourself to the marketing and sale of living benefits by building a resource library for you and your clients, and staying current with related trends.
6. Be persistent. Find ways to present and repeat your message on a continuing basis for clients.
7. Finally—and most importantly—prove your belief in the need for living-benefits products by buying them yourself and having the care conversation with your parents and your own family
My father died at the age of 93, suffering from multiple conditions including crippling spinal arthritis, stroke, and mixed dementia. He always told me that you don't want to be poor when you're old. I had too many years to see how right he was.
- The Long Term Care Planner [ITAL END] by Karen Henderson
- Long Term Care News and Views e-newsletter www.ltcnewsandviews.com
- Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher, Ph.D. ISBN 1-57322-784-6
- When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Dr. Gabor Mate, M.D. ISBN 0-676-97311-6
Karen Henderson is the founder and CEO of Caregiver
Network/How to Care, a national resource centre in Canada for aging
and long-term care. She works with a variety of Canada's leading
corporations, as well as financial and insurance companies to help
educate employees, advisors, and clients about the implications of
long-term care planning in all aspects of life. Karen is available
to design and deliver advisor and client seminars, to create
content, and to provide advisor coaching. She can be reached at
(416) 323.1090 or at email@example.com
. Web sites: www.caregiver.ca
(Caregiver Network), and www.howtocare.com
(How to Care).