Triangle professionals use team approach with holistic elder care planning
Guest Post By Wanda Urbanska
A mid-day phone call with his octogenarian mother back in 2005 set off an alarm bell in Kent Thompson’s head. His mother lived in Southern Pines, 70 miles from his home in Raleigh. Once he realized that she was in danger of languishing away or worse – and that he couldn’t get there quickly if she needed help – he sprang into action.
Within a matter of months, Thompson had put his mother’s home on the market and moved her to an independent living facility in Raleigh. This move was a catalyst for reviewing her entire situation, elder care planning including financial, medical and end-of-life plans.
When he examined her financial situation, he quickly saw that she was leaving money on the table in the form of unclaimed benefits for her late husband’s military service.
“Until I had this ah-ha moment about my mother’s needs, my head was in the sand,” he admits.
For many, the price of this “head-in-the-sand” inaction can be catastrophic. If a parent falls or dies without plans in place, it can take months or even years to untangle the web.
If a parent becomes unconscious before questions about beneficiaries or organ donation are answered, the next of kin can be left guessing.
And kicking themselves for not having acted before it was too late.
Taking responsibility for his mother and putting her affairs in order led Thompson to his current career path. As a Certified Financial Planner® for Capital Financial Solutions in Raleigh, his expertise includes a number of topics:
- Social Security planning
- Medicare benefits
- Long-term care
- Retirement income strategies
Whether his clients are planning for retirement, enjoying their senior years but wish to review their plans, or if they are the adult children assisting their elderly parents with financial decisions, Thompson can help.
The Team Approach
As Thompson began to focus more heavily on this area in his work, he also realized that he needed to collaborate with an array of highly trained and trusted professionals in developing comprehensive caregiving plans.
His interdisciplinary “team” includes:
- Elder attorneys
- Insurance providers specializing in long-term care planning
- Caregiving providers
- Government and veterans’ assistance experts
The team takes a holistic approach to helping clients find the best options for their senior years, while providing clients with multiple perspectives.
“We’re kind of like architects,” Thompson says. “We build a financial house by doing some walking around and investigating, finding out if any rooms are missing, or if the foundation is wobbly at any point.” It’s not uncommon, he says, to find high net worth individuals with no wills and trusts, and no plans for long-term care.
When the team examines the whole financial and future-care picture, they may discover that someone once recommended something that wasn’t the best fit for their future needs. “We can look at options going forward and help them decide if they wish to make changes,” he says.
Everything needs to be examined:
- Bank and savings accounts
- Insurance including health insurance
- Pension plans
- Long-term care
- Wills and trusts
The team also needs to know who the clients’ key providers are:
- Estate planning attorney
- Medical doctor
Who is on Your Team?
Additionally, they need to know who family members are. “It comes down to whom do you trust; Who do you want taking care of this stuff if something happened to you?” Thompson says.
A common trigger for engaging the team is when an elderly person dies. Frequently, the husband in a couple has been managing the family finances for decades, in many cases with the wife knowing almost nothing about procedures or particulars.
Often a middle-aged child steps in to help Mom. “They come to us knowing they need a third party to guide and assist,” Thompson says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this: ‘I’m managing Mom’s money; If I mess up and Mom loses money, my brother and sister are going to be upset and make Christmas dinner tense.”
Providing an outside perspective and experience in these matters can also lend authority to make necessary moves. “Sometimes adult children of elderly parents don’t know much about what Mom and Dad need to do going forward,” Thompson says. “And sometimes they know a lot, but Mom and Dad don’t share the information with Suzie and Junior.”
Elder Care Planning for Caregiving
One of the most critical conversations comes around the need for caregiving. As America grows older and the population of elderly people swells, there will be as great a need for elder care as for child care.
One of the most critical components – one that many don’t wish to face – is the need for long-term care insurance. Most people can’t imagine living in a nursing home. But 56 percent of Americans between the ages of 57 and 61 will, according to a 2017 study.
According to USA Today, the cost of a room in a nursing home was $7,441 per month in 2018. Comparatively, the median cost of staying at an assisted living facility is $4,000 per month.
The vast majority of seniors would rather age in place. But even if they do, they are likely to need assistance at some point in their lives. This includes daily activities like dressing, bathing, cooking, cleaning and light home maintenance. And if children or relatives are unable or unavailable to assist them, they will need the funds to bring in outside help.
This is where long-term care insurance comes in. Tim and Gina Murray, owners of Aware Senior Care, an in-home care agency based in Cary, know how families can get crushed financially if they can’t afford to pay for such care.
They recommend purchasing the policies – which average $2,700 a year – while they can still be written. (Once you contract a serious medical condition or cross a certain age threshold, you may not be able to purchase one or the cost of the premium may be out of reach.) Many professionals will tell you that having some coverage is better than no coverage.
Older Americans Need to Get Informed!
“It breaks our heart when a family needs the care but don’t have the funds to cover it,” says Tim Murray. Taking a page out of his own book of recommendations, he and his wife purchased their policy at age 59, when they were still young enough to lock in rates.
Furthermore, Thompson continues to be surprised by smart people of means lacking basic elder care planning knowledge. Despite brilliant careers and impressive assets, they “Don’t know beans about Social Security or the importance of wills and trusts.”
If your head is in the sand, he says, the most important thing to do is to start the conversation.