New Easter Seals/MassMutual Study: Autism Strains Family Finances, Threatens Long-Term Care and Security

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One parent responds, "We're drowning financially"

MassMutual has more than 200 Special Care Planners across the U.S. who have received advanced training in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with special needs families and caregivers

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Caring for children with autism is wreaking havoc on family finances across America, jeopardizing current and long-term care and security, according to a new study, Living with Autism, released today by Easter Seals and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

"No one expected the problems and challenges to be so severe for families living with autism - the numbers are stark and point to the pervasiveness of this public health crisis," said John Chandler, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of MassMutual's U.S. Insurance Group. "The study reveals that many families are exposed to serious financial risk due to a lack of awareness and planning."

For example, of parents having children with autism:

  • 74 percent fear their children will not have enough financial support after the parents die (compared to only 18 percent of parents with typically developing children)
  • 52 percent say caring for their child drains the family's current financial resources (compared to 13 percent)
  • 47 percent say the cost of care financially impacts how they raise typically developing siblings

"The good news is that, with increased awareness and the right help, this is one piece of the autism puzzle that parents can begin to solve," added Chandler.

"There's a lot at stake," said Joanne Gruszkos, director of the SpecialCareSM Program at MassMutual. "By not addressing financial and life care planning needs, or addressing them with inexperienced professionals, a lot of these families could, at the very least, risk losing the government services that are a real lifeline for children with autism."

The study found that despite overwhelming need, most parents don't seek out the help of skilled financial professionals for a variety of reasons, including lack of time, not knowing where to start, and simply being overwhelmed. "Even when they do reach out, the help can be misguided because it comes from financial professionals who are not trained specifically to deal with complex cases involving special needs," added Gruszkos. "Run-of-the-mill planning can backfire."

The study found that:

  • only half of families surveyed receive professional financial advice
  • only 38 percent have designated a guardian
  • only 17 percent have created a Special Needs Trust, which can be an important funding vehicle
  • only 24 percent have identified living arrangements, if the parent is no longer living

MassMutual's SpecialCare program is an innovative outreach initiative developed exclusively by MassMutual to provide access to information, specialists, and financial products and services that can help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and other special needs and their families and caregivers.

"Life care planning is a growing area of financial services need, as awareness and occurrence of disabilities and special needs increases across the country," explained Gruszkos. "MassMutual has more than 200 Special Care Planners across the U.S. who have received advanced training in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with special needs families and caregivers," she added.

"There is an urgent need for increased funding and services - especially for adults with autism. Easter Seals and MassMutual want to help change all of this and make a difference for families living with autism today," concluded Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Easter Seals' national director, autism services.

Results of the study are available at http://www.massmutual.com/autism. A variety of resources from MassMutual for people with special needs, their families and caregivers are available at http://www.massmutual.com/specialcare/resources.

Editors please note: Photos available.

Survey Methodology
The Living with Autism Study - a survey of more than 2,500 parents about their children's daily lives, relationships, independence, education, housing, employment, finances and healthcare - highlights the pervasive emotional, practical and financial impacts of autism on families, their futures and their finances.

The study was conducted online within the United States by HarrisInteractive on behalf of Easter Seals between June 16 and July 17, 2008 among 1,652 parents of children age 30 and under who have autism and 917 parents of typically developing children age 30 and under. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leader in helping people with disabilities and other special needs and their families through its exclusive SpecialCareSM Program. For more information and resources on autism, go to http://www.massmutual.com/autism.

MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual and its subsidiaries had more than $500 billion in assets under management at year-end 2007. Assets under management include assets and certain external investment funds managed by MassMutual's subsidiaries.

Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a mutually owned financial protection, accumulation and income management company headquartered in Springfield, Mass. MassMutual's major affiliates include: OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MML Investors Services, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC (http://www.finra.org and http://www.sipc.org); MassMutual International LLC and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB.

About Easter Seals
Autism is a lifelong disability that affects the way a person's brain functions, involving challenges in communication, social skills, and behaviors. While there is no known cause or cure, autism is treatable and people with autism can - and do - lead meaningful lives. Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For nearly 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Visit http://www.easterseals.com or http://www.actforautism.org to learn more about autism, find services at an Easter Seals near you, or help change the lives of people living with autism by becoming a donor or volunteer.

MEDIA CONTACT:    
Karen Lavariere-Sanchez, MassMutual, 413-744-7660
Patrick Collins, Madison Communications, 617-553-0349
http://www.massmutual.com/autism

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Patrick Collins

Karen Lavariere-Sanchez
MassMutual
413-744-7660
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