Targeting Those Caring For Elder Parents

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by Michael P. Sullivan, President, 50-Plus Communications Consulting

Does anyone ever really plan ahead to care for an aging parent? Not unless the older adult is in a troublesome or even critical state. Elder caregiving almost becomes a complete surprise. We don't normally set aside money or time for the task. In fact, we are usually unprepared for it. And, often when it does occur, we tend to deny it's happening.

And yet there are critical issues that accompany the complex, extraordinarily powerful emotions of caring for loved ones who are elderly, disabled or ill. Emotional reactions to eldercare can range from guilt and helplessness to anger and resentment to sorrow and grief. But, most of all, the caregiver needs help.

Caregivers share many of the critical issues involved in caring for loved ones who are elderly, disabled or ill. Overburdened by caregiver responsibilities and often overwhelmed by emotional reactions such as guilt and helplessness, anger, resentment and grief these people often have little time to tend to their own financial—let alone emotional—needs and requirements. But there are always ways you can help, and receive plenty of rewards in return.

Importantly, helping a client who is caring for another opens up many opportunities not only for deepening your relationship with the caregiver but for connecting with members of the extended family and friends. The benefits of this opportunity can lead to more business. You're able to:
Deepen and strengthen client relationships by talking with clients about important things beyond financial transactions, such as lifestyle, interests, hobbies, occupations, perhaps even major milestones that you should be aware of.

Connect with multiple members of the same family – fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and children.

Capture intergenerational transfers of wealth. When parents or grandparents pass on, wealth is typically dispersed among a number of family members. You rarely get a chance to build a relationship with the potential inheritors.

With caregiving, there are four general areas where planning of some kind is desirable. Each area has a number of sub-segments where you can provide information or direct assistance:

  • Physical – e.g., regular doctor, recent physical exam, geriatric assessments, inventory of medications.
  • Housing—housing options ranging from home health care to assisted living to continuing care retirement communities.
  • Legal – such as wills, powers of attorney, living trusts.
  • Financial – investments, estate planning, not only for the one being cared for but for themselves.

Who are caregivers?

According to a survey by the National Family Caregivers Association, 82% of those giving care to family members -- children or older relatives -- are women and 80% of the caregivers spend more than 20 hours a week at it. The recipient of that care is the spouse 48% of the time; parents 24% of the time; a child 19% and a sibling or friend 9%.

And there are many more caregivers to come. Four out of five individuals age 50 have at least one living parent. That parent is typically 25 to 40 years older -- age 75 to 90. Who provides attention and care when they need it? In the vast majority of cases, it is the daughter, whether she is married, single, widowed or divorced. All that despite her other responsibilities.

Because of that reality, many women from their late 30s on, but centered at around age 50, are consumed by their responsibilities: parents (and maybe parents-in-law), work, maybe children, maybe spouse. They have little time to think about financial issues, such as their own retirement planning. And you can't get their attention about financial issues because they do not have the time or energy.

But in certain ways, that bad news is good news. Because they have so little time and energy available, they are more than willing to accept help. While some, of course, do not have discretionary funds to invest, others do. More than a few will come into inheritances in the near future. In other words, women with caregiving responsibilities represent a potentially high-payoff target for you.

What are specific actions you can take?

  • Review your book of business for clients that are dealing with caregiving issues. Select 15 to 20 for immediate contact. Call them and inquire about their situation. Offer to provide advice with financial management of parent/grandparent's affairs. Develop a long-term investment strategy for both dependent individual and spouse.
  • Focus on the caregiver's needs--advice with own retirement planning, college funding for own children. The situation is more complex for single mothers. Develop a financial plan to get through the years of caregiving.
  • Conduct a seminar for caregivers. It's an excellent way to attract caregivers. We've created a seminar program on caregiving that has worked well. A number of community caregiving resources could be part of the program.
  • Continue to educate yourself on the issues of caregiving. Many Web sites provide excellent information. There are a number of helpful items on our web site, A number of books have been published recently on the subject.

Caring for a loved one who is elderly, disabled or ill is vitally important to those who provide it. It can dominate the caregiver's life both physically and emotionally. You can become a powerful resource to help and support the caregiver during these difficult times.

Provided by Michael P. Sullivan, President, 50-Plus Communications Consulting.

Mr. Sullivan is a founder of 50-Plus Communications Consulting and a well-known and highly regarded public speaker on financial services and the aging population. He is also a consultant and trainer specializing in financial marketing and sales for Baby Boomers and older consumers. Mr. Sullivan is the author of Financial Relationships with Seniors: The Strategic Battleground of the 90s.

For more information on 50-Plus Communications Consulting, visit their Web site at Send your questions and comments to Michael at [email protected].

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