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This is a guest blog post by Harley Gordon, president at The Corporation for LongTerm Care Certification (CLTCC) and nationally recognized long-term care expert. He speaks frequently about the implications of Long Term Care for families.

There is scarcely an older American who has not been pummeled with depressing surveys that senility, dementia, dependence and a future suffering in a nursing home awaits them. Not surprisingly, corresponding surveys show that very few listen.

The problem centers on the message. Media campaigns rely exclusively on educating consumers on the statistical risk of needing care, supported by its cost. Personal stories are thrown in for good measure. The problem is that it creates the well know condition of cognitive dissonance – the discomfort one experiences when his or her beliefs are challenged by behavior or in this case, facts to the contrary.

No one wants to hear they are going to need Long Term Care, particularly men who are conditioned through genetics and or social convention, to believe their primary responsibilities are to provide for and protect those they love. The issue is created when they are confronted with this message.

There are three ways people deal with cognitive dissonance: 1. ignore the facts; 2. rationalize their behavior; 3. change their behavior.

Option one speaks for itself. Option two plays out in front of insurance professionals when it is suggested that care is inevitable. There is no need to discuss it because the events are not going to happen. This is expressed in classic statements including, I won’t live a long life; I’ll never need care; If I do need care, I can self-insure.  Their logic is airtight: There being no need for care, why do I need to talk about it?

Women also believe care will not be needed, but their response is more nuanced. Unlike men, who tend to live in a world of no-risk, many women live in a world of consequences. They understand the consequences of providing care because many are primary caregivers.

Shifting emphasis

The most productive way to motivate clients, particularly men, is to replace a discussion about the client’s risk of needing care and its’ cost, with information about a set of damages to those he loves, if care was needed. This approach hits men where they are most vulnerable… potential harm to those he promised to take care of if he was no longer able to.

The focus therefore, should be the two sets of consequences of providing care visits on a family:

1. Providing care to a client, who is substantially impaired, by definition is all-consuming. This means those the client promised to take care of would have no choice but to put aside their lives to take care of him (or her). The consequences are in many instances, irreversible: I have seen families that will never talk to each other again.

2. Paying for care requires a wholesale reallocation of resources, starting with income. The problem is that the income is already spoken for in the form of expenses, few of which are discretionary. The wealthy may argue they have sufficient assets, which they may. The better approach is to suggest that they are, in effect, using capital. This creates serious tax issues, subjects withdrawals to market conditions and ultimately deprives the client of income.

Read more about Long Term Care in Ed Wallack’s blog post “5 important facts about Long Term Care (LTC)” and on our LTC resources page.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by NFP Securities, Inc.(NFPSI)member FINRA/SIPC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. Harley Gordon is not associated with NFPSI.

*Most long-term care insurance policies contain exclusions, waiting periods, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. Please ask us for full details and cost information.