Dealing with an Aging Client Base

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Readers – I frequently receive questions about dealing with aging clients. In addition to saving for retirement and developing an estate plan, learning how to deal with mental and physical incapacity in clients is important for advisors. This week I’ve asked a specialist in elder care, Jill Poser-Kammet, CGCM, CAPS. Jill is director of life-care planning at ADVOCARE – Care Associates in Florida.

The Internet is filled with information about diminished capacity, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinsonian dementia – the tell-tale signs and dos and don’ts of aging clients. Books and pamphlets are dedicated to those diseases. However, very little is written from the perspective of the person struggling with the disease. What does that look like? How do we help that person have “the conversation?”

My client is 77-years old. She is a clinical psychologist and is on staff at one of the most prestigious teaching institutions in the world. She has been in private practice for close to 50 years and has helped countless numbers of patients with all kinds of challenges including the issue of coping with dementia.

Now she finds herself the patient learning to cope with having dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. She struggles with anxiety daily as she attempts to recall words and phrases, maintain a day-to-day routine that is familiar, keep up with friends and colleagues, maintain her social calendar and most importantly, stay in control of her finances as she has always done.

She requests her statements from her financial advisor. After all, she has always worked very closely with him and this has been a normal part of her routine. The statements are delivered to her apartment for her review. I happened to be there when the package arrived. She looked through the documents and quickly becomes anxious. She knew she did not understand any of it. She became frantic. I looked at her and very quietly asked her the following question, “What are you the most afraid of?” She looked at me with relief in her eyes and simply stated, “I am afraid I will no longer be able to manage my money and other people will take advantage of me.” She paused and then said, “I don’t want people to think I am crazy.”