Baby boomers have driven the current growth of the population 65 and older to an unprecedented time in U.S. history. This generation has brought both challenges and opportunities to the economy, infrastructure and institutions.
According to this year’s figures released by the Alzheimer’s Association, one person in 10 over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is projected to reach 13.8 million.
In this aging society and with the rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s, the clients of financial advisers and CPAs are living longer, which can present some challenges, such as the client having cognitive impairment issues that can interfere with the relationship.
The financial adviser or CPA may first notice some diminished capacity in the early stages of the disease as the client may show some personality changes along with memory loss. The client may have difficulty remembering recent events but can recall things that took place years ago.
Communication challenges become evident and in addition to a lack of understanding, the client may show a great deal of confusion, especially in the management of his or her finances. That's usually when problems can begin to develop in the professional relationship.
However difficult or unpleasant, the adviser must have an honest discussion with the client, who may resent any implications of his or her condition. As a consequence, the adviser may lose the client's business, yet the problems cannot be ignored.
The adviser may want to consider implementing some practices to handle the client’s cognitive impairment; practices that give the client continuing dignity and respect. For example, the adviser could meet more frequently with the client for a shorter amount of time, as it helps to focus on just one or two topics per meeting.
It would also be a good idea for the adviser to suggest that his or her client bring a spouse or trusted family member to the meetings. The adviser could also take detailed notes and have copies ready for the client and his or her family members.
Since familiar surroundings are most comfortable for someone with Alzheimer’s, so it might be helpful for the adviser to meet at the client’s home. In his or her own environment, the individual could possibly be more focused, and would not have to get ready for a meeting or worry about being transported to an office.
When a contact person or family member is not available, the adviser should consider contacting state or local governmental agencies that provide services to seniors. Some state laws may impose an affirmative duty on the adviser or CPA to report suspected physical abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of an elderly client. In these cases, the state’s adult/elderly protective services should be notified.