Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey from Thrivent found that perceptions toward extended care planning haven’t changed, and a significant percentage of Americans have not documented their plans, should the need for extended care arise.
Thrivent’s 2021 Extended Care Planning Survey defined extended care as non-medical care for those who need assistance with basic daily activities, such as dressing, bathing or using the bathroom due to a physical or cognitive impairment. It was conducted online in partnership with data intelligence company Morning Consult and polled 2,200 adults across the country from March 11-15.
Americans are unprepared should the need for extended care arise, said Steve Sperka, Vice President of Health Insurance Products, Thrivent, as he shared some of the survey’s highlights with us.
“Our recent survey found that a significant percentage of Americans (70%) do not have a documented extended care plan in place for themselves or a family member,” he added. “This means many families may suddenly find themselves in a care crisis with no written plan outlining the specific actions they should take, leaving them to navigate a challenging life event in real-time.”
No Change For Many
In addition, Sperka said, despite living through the pandemic and seeing how it’s magnified the impact of long-term care on individuals and their caregivers’ daily lives, more than half (51 % said COVID-19 has not changed their approach to extended care planning at all. And only a mere 18% said COVID-19 has made them realize that having a plan is more important than ever.
Finally, Sperka said, noticeable disparities exist between women and men when it comes to talking about, and planning for extended care, despite the significant role women have as caregivers.
“Our survey found 77% of women don’t have a documented extended care plan for themselves or a loved one compared to 64% of men. And 63% of women haven’t had conversations with family members about an extended care plan, compared to 55% of men,” he said.
The reason so many Americans are unprepared for the possibility of needing extended care is that many of them are not engaging in conversations about it, Sperka explained.
“Our survey found that 59% of Americans haven’t spoken to anyone about creating an extended care plan,” he said. “This means that if the unexpected were to happen, many families would not be prepared to make major care decisions in a crisis. At that point, their choices may be more limited and they may find themselves making tough financial decisions they hadn’t fully planned for.”
Helping Americans Address This Issue
There are a few steps financial advisors can take to help Americans prepare for the possibility of needing extended care and actually create a plan, according to Sperka.
Financial advisors should make extended care a part of recurring conversations with their clients – either during an annual review or a spontaneous check-up, he said. In fact, a great time to connect with clients on this topic is around their birthday, as extended care planning solutions are priced around age and health.
“This can prompt clients to think about the different options available to them and help them understand the potential repercussions of waiting too long to put a plan into place,” he said.
It’s essential for financial advisors to be proactive about bringing extended care to the forefront of their planning conversations with clients, Sperka added. By providing them with the guidance they need early on, extended care will remain top-of-mind for clients as they continue to clarify and sharpen their future goals.
If not addressed in the planning stages, financial advisors will find themselves having reactive conversations with panicked clients who are trying to respond to an unfolding crisis.
Another key role financial advisors can play is in educating and helping clients devise strategies for funding their care, Sperka added. Many people are surprised to learn that extended care isn’t covered in their existing healthcare plans and the additional expense may catch them off guard.
“Indeed,” he said, “our survey found that 75% of Americans said it would be difficult to pay for long-term care and more than half (52%) revealed they wouldn’t be able to fund their care if they needed it today. By planning in advance, clients can have confidence knowing they’re ready in the event the unexpected happens, and that their loved ones or family members won’t have to scramble financially to execute their care.”
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial-services industry. She formerly served as Editor-In-Chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at amseka@INNfeedback.com.