Financial advisers who can help clients with the overwhelming job of caregiving will create tremendous loyalty, a client and "semi-professional patient" told advisers at the NAPFA conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Alan Blaustein learned firsthand when he was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2005 that the health care system is challenging and can be financially debilitating when tackled alone. During his journey through the health care maze, he encountered doctors who misdiagnosed his condition, one who charged $3,000 for a 30-minute meeting and one who just told him he "was screwed."
Mr. Blaustein's own financial adviser played a key role in making sure he wasn't taken advantage of by hospitals, insurers, doctors and the other professionals who must be "tackled," he said.
"Families cannot take care of it themselves, they can't do it on their own," Mr. Blaustein said at the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors spring conference. "Becoming an educated resource can enhance your relationship as a trusted adviser."
About 20% of adult Americans are caring regularly for sick or elderly parents or other relatives. Advisers should reach out to clients who they know are caregivers, or those who may be, and proactively offer to help, Mr. Blaustein said.
Advisers should position themselves to help with legal concerns and financial obligations, and should help the client assemble a team of professionals, he said. They should be a resource for help in finding health insurance and long-term care, as well as dealing with insurance coverage and claims. Helping them organize the piles of bills and other insurance and medical documents is a great start, he said.
"Being the party that helps them get organized will keep you remembered for a long time," said Mr. Blaustein, who has created Careplanners.com as a nationwide network of nurses, social workers, billing experts and others that can be a resource for advisers and clients.
Carl Lachman, a financial adviser with Eclectic Associates in Fullerton, Calif., said he talks to clients who he knows are caregivers and recommends that advisers spend the time it takes to go through all bills carefully to look for erroneous charges.
"I try to pump them up and let them know it's not going to be easy," said Mr. Lachman, who attended Mr. Blaustein's session.
Mr. Lachman also recommends that clients talk to doctors upfront about costs and tells them that sometimes doctors will agree to take less.