When Alzheimer?s Strikes: Five Ways to Respond

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Dan Richards

Creating strong bonds with key clients means letting them know you understand their important issues, not just the ones related to their finances.  Few issues are as important as your clients’ health, and few health struggles are as challenging as Alzheimer’s. 

The unfortunate reality is that clients run into adversity all the time. Many advisors are challenged in responding when clients encounter difficulty … and rather than feeling awkward because they don’t know what to say, say nothing at all.

That’s a mistake – in times of setbacks clients need us the most.

If adversity relates to their business failing or job loss, clients certainly need our support, but at least there are specific things we can suggest and concrete recommendations we can make.

It’s more difficult when clients are dealing with death of a family member or severe illness … advisors often are powerless and frustrated by how little we can do beyond providing moral support.

For instance, just about every advisor has clients with family members struggling with Alzheimer’s, whether parents, spouses or siblings. Among the things that makes Alzheimer’s so devastating is there’s no way to prevent or cure it.  Dealing with someone suffering from this disease can consume a family.

When clients are dealing with Alzheimers in their family or other adversity, one way for an advisor to broach the subject is with a handwritten note (definitely not an email!) with the simple words:

As you’re going through this difficult time, know that my thoughts are with you. If there’s anything at all that I can do to help, even in a small way, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

That expression of support is a good start – but if you’re really serious about being there for clients in tough times, a start is all it is. Here are five strategies you can use when Alzheimers strike a client’s family that go beyond just expressions of sympathy.

The first relates to updating the client’s financial plan … or where they’ve resisted spending the time to develop a plan, this event may be the trigger that persuades them they need to do this.

The second suggestion is an idea I’ve written about previously, and the rest come from advisors who responded to that idea or to a note I sent out asking what advisors are doing when clients run into Alzheimers in their family.  (By coincidence, or perhaps not, almost all of the advisors who responded with their own strategies were women.)