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3 Practical Ways Financial Advisors Can Help Spousal Caregivers

A part of our series, 8,000 Days



We’ve all started DIY home projects that spiral into disasters. You think, “Why should I pay for help when I can handle it myself?” Then things don’t go as planned. It ends up taking more time, money, and patience than you’d hoped for—all because you didn’t get help.

Likewise, your clients who provide spousal caregiving might have a DIY mindset but need help due to exhaustion. You’re in a position to identify clients struggling with caregiving of a spouse or partner. Use these three approaches to help them effectively cope with the stress of caregiving, and turn a daunting task into a manageable one. Help clients who are spousal caregivers:

  1. Avoid isolation
  2. Get help from family and friends
  3. Get relief with respite care


  1. avoid isolation

    Maintaining a strong social network can protect spousal caregivers from isolation. Because of their dedication, many caregivers focus so much on caring for their spouses that they neglect to care for themselves. As a result, spousal caregivers are more likely to experience depression than adult-children caregivers.1 Additionally, isolation can take a toll on relationships. Divorce rates for couples in which one spouse has a serious chronic illness is as high as 75%.1

    Learn to recognize clients who aren’t taking time for themselves. If they’re becoming increasingly isolated, suggest these steps to strengthen their social network:

    • Connect spousal caregivers with others in their situation
      Offer to make connections between other clients who are spousal caregivers. Caregivers who've had similar challenges can provide support and information.
    • Recommend support groups—online and in-person
      Support groups can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies.  Members understand what fellow caregivers may be going through. Support groups can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.

      More than a quarter of caregivers seek support on an online forum right after they begin caring for their loved one. By the end of their first year of caregiving, nearly half turn to an online community for assistance. Below are some popular support groups.

      • Well Spouse Association is a national organization made up of spousal caregivers coping with a broad range of medical conditions
      • AgingCare.com has a section on their site where caregivers can connect with elder-care experts and family caregivers
      • Care.com offers caregiving tips, advice, and support
      • Eldercare.gov offers resources for free caregiver counseling and support groups
    • Help spousal caregivers stay socially engaged
      Recommend that caregiving spouses go places or do things they enjoy. If they like to read, they could join a book club. They could also join a gym or take a fitness or sports class: golf, tennis, Tai chi. The more it involves contact with other people, the better. Meetup.com can help clients by finding people in their area with similar interests so they can connect with them.

  3. get Help from Family and Friends

    Let’s face it, it’s not easy to ask for help. Many spousal caregivers are reluctant to ask family and friends for help because they don’t want to inconvenience them. Caregivers also tend to give others the impression that they’re doing fine, masking the need for help. Sometimes family and friends are willing to help but don't know how much caregivers need it. Ask clients if they've avoided asking for help. If they have, coach them on how to ask. Here’s how:

    • Tips on how to ask
      Caring for an aging adult is more effective using a team approach. Suggest these tips to caregivers to get help from family or friends:2
      • Start with a one-on-one conversation
      • Be specific about tasks they need help with
      • Provide instructions and schedules

      For additional ways clients can request help from family, check out this article.

    • Get help from paid support
      Spousal caregivers tend to feel less comfortable hiring professionals to provide care for their loved one. Sixty-six percent of spouses abstain from hiring at-home care, and wives are less likely than husbands to employ home-care services for their partner.3 If clients can afford it, suggest they hire an aide to help with cleaning the house, cooking meals, running errands, or providing nursing duties—whatever will lighten their workload.

      You can also refer clients to geriatric-care managers who can assist caregivers with planning, making financial decisions, managing medical and housing needs, and ensuring the safety of their loved one.


  5. Get relief with respite care

    We all need a break from the daily grind, especially spousal caregivers, who spend an average of 44.6 hours a week providing care.3 Respite care simply means someone else provides relief, allowing the caregiver to have some time for him or herself. Fifty-eight percent of the spousal caregivers surveyed get no outside help at all from family, friends, or home health aides.4

    Respite care can be provided at home by a friend, family member, volunteer, or by paid services in a care setting, such as adult day care or a residential facility.

    Spousal caregivers resist the idea of respite care for many reasons, including guilt, cost, being too busy to plan, and reluctance to change their loved one’s routine. For clients who are resistant, let them know:

    • Respite is good for them and their loved one
    • Being too busy to track down a respite care provider is a sign that they need a break
    • A break now can ward off a burnout later
    • Respite care is often covered by insurance or an agency such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or Medicare.

    Here are some links to respite options in your area:



Does helping spousal caregiving make business sense?

According to the Dr. Joe Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, “Financial services and advice has traditionally been product based—focused on a successful investment strategy to provide the resources necessary for retirement. That approach is certainly not incorrect, but extended longevity and the new context of aging have made this value proposition incomplete to clients.”

Clients will increasingly search for solutions to the many jobs of longevity, including spousal caregiving. Planning and solving for these jobs presents a new landscape for what clients need, want, and ultimately will pay an advisory firm to provide. Advisors who meet the needs of longevity will enjoy the greatest degree of client intimacy and have the deepest relationship with their clients.

So let’s summarize:

Help clients who are spousal caregivers:

  1. Avoid isolation
  2. Get help from family and friends
  3. Get relief with respite care


Get Caregiving Done with a Team

The bottom line is that your clients can’t care well for others if they don’t care for themselves. Doing it yourself approaches can work all right for kitchens, but not for caregiving. Suggest some of the ideas above to help them build a team and get the help they need.

Next Steps

  1. Download or order the DIY Kitchens, Not Caregiving client white paper below
  2. Within two weeks, identify clients who are providing spousal caregiving now or may be in the future
  3. Within a month, offer to make connections between clients who are spousal caregivers

Please enter your email address to download DIY Kitchens, Not Caregiving client white paper

Order this white paper >


"There are only four kinds of people in the world: Those who have been caregivers; those who are currently caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregiving."

— Rosalynn Carter
Former First Lady and founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving

1When Caregivers Fall Out of Love, AARP, 7/31/17

2Tips to Get Family to Help with Aging Parents, DailyCaring, 6/23/16. Most recent
data available used.

3Caregiving in the US: 2015 Report, The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the
AARP Public Policy Institute, 6/15. Most recent data available used.

4Caregiving Spouses and Partners Often “Go It Alone” with Insufficient Help,
Caregivers.com, 4/29/14. Most recent data available used.

5Home Alone: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Chronic Care, AARP & The
United Hospital Fund, 10/12. Most recent data available used.


The MIT AgeLab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.

The information in this presentation is provided for informational purposes only. Hartford Mutual Funds may or may not be invested in the companies referenced herein; however, no endorsement of any product or service is being made. Hartford Funds is not associated with the entities referenced in this presentation.