The role of being a caregiver to an elderly parent or a sick loved one can be overwhelming at times. On top of the emotional and physical drain that can set in, caregivers are also often tasked with sorting out the finances of the people they are looking after.

According to the an AARP study, more than 65 million people – over 29% of the U.S. population – provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year. In doing so, they spend an average of 20 hours of their time a week. The value of that unpaid caregiving is approximately $375 billion, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare.

The average caregiver already has enough on her plate, too. She's 49 and is caring for her 69-year-old widowed mother who doesn't live with her. She's employed and married. Roughly two-thirds of family caregivers are women, and over a third have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them. (For more on this topic, see Why Caregiving Costs Women and What Women Want From A Financial Advisor.)

That’s when turning to a financial advisor can be a wise decision.

From Bathing To Bills

One of the more difficult tasks a caregiver faces is having to navigate an often obtuse health care system, while at the same time trying to keep up with the myriad of doctor’s bills and insurance forms the patient they are caring for may have accrued.

An advisor can be helpful in this setting, in terms of coming up with a system for dealing with the influx of bills and paperwork that will invariably pile up. Advisors can also help caregiver to make sure that health service providers are not taking advantage of the person in their care. They can also be an impartial voice to advise clients on legal details, such as a living will or a healthcare directive, and a power of attorney. (For more on this topic, see Advanced Estate Planning: Healthcare Documents.)

Many Baby Boomers have already faced these issues. Next up are their children; more than half of Gen Xers expect that at some point they'll become the primary caregiver to an aging parent or relative. (For more on this topic, see Generation Caregiver - Are You Ready?)

Role of Advisors

With so many Americans tasked with caring for a loved one, financial advisors would be well-served by boning up on the needs of this population and their loved ones. They should familiarize themselves with any legal concerns and financial responsibilities that caregivers may come up against and have to address. They may even choose to broach the subject in a meeting.

Advisors can also position themselves as a helpful resource for those caregivers looking to choose a health insurance and/or long-term care policy for their loved ones. Sorting through insurance options, medical coverage and claims can be a daunting task for a caregiver, but advisors can make themselves available by offering to help weed through choices and develop an organizational system that a caregiver can use when dealing with bills, insurance and other medical documents.

The Bottom Line

Stressed caregivers could use help with managing their loved one's affairs. Fortunately, financial advisors are well-positioned to assist. Few things get would-be clients focused on retirement planning and future healthcare needs like having to care for a loved one. Lending a hand also can go a long way toward client retention.

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