This article was originally published in 2006.
Patty Randall understands that caring for an elder loved one is no small task. For 10 years she was the primary care guide for her aging parents who, after being separated involuntarily by health issues, were living out their long-term care years – her father in a nursing home and her mother in her own home. After her father passed away, Randall set up what she describes as a virtual mini nursing home in her mother’s Okanagan home, and cared lovingly for her mother until the latter’s death last summer at the age of 94.
Randall’s is a scenario that many children of Canadian elders can relate to — the issues surrounding the transference of care to aging parents, including determining who is the appropriate person to provide the care, where that care should take place, i.e. in an assisted care facility, long-term care residence, or simply staying put at home — or with offspring — and importantly, how that care will be funded.
Her experiences with caregiving compelled Randall to spread the word to Canadian boomers and young seniors about the intrinsic need to become proactive in their own care planning — and to do it well ahead of the game — in order to ease the burden of those “less-than-glamorous” care years. She penned her adventures in her popular book entitled, Let’s Talk – The Care-Years… Taking Care Of Our Parents/Planning For Ourselves. An extensive guidebook for all families to follow.
Although her book targets the Canadian consumer, her multifaceted role as a consultant, speaker and author of long-term care issues, allowed her to come face to face with Canada’s financial advice sector. Aside from the more complicated tax and estate planning issues, Randall recognized the benefit in simultaneously informing this group on some of the necessary softer strategies to help guide their boomer and senior clients through their respective caregiving experiences.
In an interview, Randall talked about some of these more tender tactics.
AE: How do advisors get their aging clients — and their families — talking about the important issues surrounding care?
PR: First and foremost is communicating that “care” is an acceptable four-letter word. Each family should have what I call “DRIP” conversations. Once you hear about a particular concept you may not absorb it the next time you see it, but pretty soon you’ll [realize], “You know, I should start thinking about that.” So you have to drip the information on this issue to people — you can’t spring it on them. Advisors can also offer “drip information” to clients. For example, every month or two they may see an interesting article related to their aging client. [They might] clip their card to it and send it off to them. Then, if they want to start talking to clients about this issue, they have to do some drip communication. And families do too.
AE: What types of things should advisors ask in these conversations?
PR: The first thing they have to ask is who is going to be [the elder’s] care guide? It’s very important that families have the discussion about the care guide. We’re not talking about moving [that person] into a nursing home yet, but ask, “When the time comes, if something were to happen to you tomorrow, who’s going to be your guide?” We all have executors for when we die, we have powers of attorney — and it may or may not be the same person — but a care guide is very much required in our lives, given the century we’re living in. We can’t go without that now because length of life is expanded. So an adult child would ask, “Mom and Dad, if you were to fall tomorrow and needed hip surgery, who’s going to be your care guide? Who’s going to help you in the hospital etc.?” It would likely be two people: It’s going to be a spouse — up to the age of 70. Statistics Canada says that after 70, if the client is of comparable age, he or she had better put a child down as a second care guide.
AE: Many parents of boomers tend to communicate differently than a younger generation. They are often more inclined to keep things to themselves and rest on vested pride. How can advisors get these people to open up more about their wants and needs?