White said clients may be reluctant to talk about aging and the assistance they may need, along with the resulting loss of autonomy. But, advisors can help them prepare by asking questions, such as: Who is your support group? Who is going to take care of you if you need care? How will you get help if there’s a shortage of personal service workers, nurses, and long-term care homes? Do you have enough money to afford assistance if you want to remain independent? At today’s rates, she noted that could be $30 an hour for 365 days, but the labour shortage could push those costs higher.
As for their homes, advisors can help by asking clients: What changes can you make to your own home? It could be something as simple as removing throw rugs and lowering lights or something more complicated, such as installing a chairlift or converting a family room into a bedroom and accessible main floor bathroom with a shower. Do you have the money to pay for it? Have you looked into what resources or services your community offers? Have you had open conversations with your family? Do you have the important documents, such as wills and powers of attorney, in place?
“As advisors, we need to be comfortable with dying and death and the conversation that surrounds it,” White said, noting that many advisors and clients aren’t. “I think all of these conversations have to get better and more fulsome to really understand the emotional hurdles behind not planning. Intuitively, we all know we have to do it. So, what’s the reason for procrastinating? And how can we help our clients do the necessary planning to deal with all this?”
White suggested that, once advisors get to know their clients and have developed a relationship, they should initiate this very personal conversation and reverse engineer the questions. It may mean tackling one issue per meeting, so it isn’t too overwhelming. But, starting backwards, they can assume the person may live to 90 or 95 and require from five to seven years of assistance. Right now, she said the waitlist to get into the government-funded long-term care in Ontario, where clients only pay half, is about 30,000 people long. That’s a two to five-year wait list, so advisors need to ask what clients may do for that length of time since they’ll need a Plan B.
It would also help if advisors learn what’s involved in moving through this phase, from planning for long-term care to paying for funerals and burials. She noted that there’s a hierarchy of needs of criterion for how people are placed in long-term care. Funerals and burials can also offer a range of costs, so it would be good if the advisor can begin to have these conversations with their clients, who may not even have discussed any of their wishes with their spouse or family yet.