The “soft side”
Aging also relates to another growing industry trend: that of "soft side" services, such as family dynamics. Family relations come under a huge strain at difficult times like dealing with aging, illness and death. Suddenly family members are loaded with responsibilities they never asked for and have to come to terms with difficult decisions - about what “duty” they have, for example - while dealing with complex emotions. At the same time, the costs involved can created chasms in relationships.
“Families are coping with numerous issues surrounding wealth, planning, estate issues, health and welfare issues with aging siblings, parents and the like. They do not always know what to do. They are trying to maintain their own careers, family relationships,” says Klovee-Smith.
The key, according to prevailing wisdom, is planning for these issues proactively and transparently. These are, however, incredibly difficult issues to discuss. Like wills, planning for ill health and old age are topics people find hard to open up about. With family members, it may seem mercenary even to ask parents: what financial plans are in place in case you get ill? But addressing these practicalities beforehand can not only be the difference between a family managing to cope financially, but can prevent arguments and familial breakdown. This potentially provides a role for a trusted advisor or facilitator.
“Simply, clients want to remain independent for as long as possible. They don’t want to be a burden on anyone in most situations. They want to participate in decisions that impact their lives. While these are recognizable goals, the achievement of them can be difficult,” says Klovee-Smith.
The nuts and bolts
Wells Fargo charges for its elder care service on a “separate fee schedule.” It currently has a team of 250 people trained in this area within its wealth group, and 120 specialists.
Klovee-Smith says it is a “complex” service to roll out in many ways, as specialists need to be “skilled fiduciaries with extra training in vetting vendors, community resources, communication, coordination of services, financial fraud, and general life management issues.”
Furthermore, certain personal qualities are a must: “As a rule, each is excellent in communication, identification of issues, and they display a great deal of caring and empathy.
“Each pays attention to the goals and wishes of the clients and do not impose their own values. They work well with extended family members and those families that may present in dysfunctional ways,” he adds.
Despite the complexities though, he says the rewards have been great: “I am tremendously proud of our group. Day in and day out they face extremely challenging situations with our clients with grace, patience, skill, professionalism, and overall kindness.”