Do you have an aging client who seems, well, a little forgetful? Maybe you just talked to her and she calls you asking the same question she talked to you about the first time. She apparently doesn’t even remember this morning’s conversation. You ask her how she’s doing and she says she’s just fine and doing great. If you’re worried about it, you should be. People with memory problems can be on the way to dementia. Of course there are other causes but memory loss is a red flag for anyone doing transactions with aging investors. And if the person with the memory issues is your aging parent or other loved one, it’s the same: you should be concerned and you should consider that they may need help handling finances.
And yet, these elders seem so oblivious. If you point out logically that they’ve forgotten the earlier phone call, there will either be an embarrassed excuse or a denial. Even if you read her your notes of the earlier phone call you both had and that the question was answered, she will not going to accept that and she might get very angry with you for suggesting that she isn’t fine. Why is this? Why can’t a person who is forgetful just say it and admit it? Are they being purposely difficult?
A person with impaired memory may be unaware of her own memory difficulty. Imagine that she is developing Alzheimer’s Disease, and that memory loss is the first symptom that she exhibits. Most individuals with Alzheimer’s disease aren’t aware they have impaired memory and thinking. For others, unawareness increases as the disease progresses. This suggests that unawareness is part of the brain disease in some individuals. Arguing with them or repeatedly demonstrating to them that they’re forgetful won’t help and is likely to upset them more.
The best way to handle an aging client with memory loss is to make use of that permission your client gave you to contact a third party to contact (often an adult child) so you can discuss the problem and then take protective action.
But, I don’t have permission to contact a third party, you say? Now that’s a significant problem. Here at AgingInvestor.com, we urge every advisor anywhere and in any setting to first have a policy to guide you in the event that a client develops memory loss or dementia at any time. As a part of that policy, you will have a special document that allows the client to make a choice of what will happen if you see cognitive impairment or diminished capacity at some point in the future with that client. In that same document, the client waives the usual right to privacy over their financial information, and allows you to share it with the person they appoint. That will help you do the right thing.
For any advisor, lawyer, real estate professional or insurance broker, the same applies. If you don’t have a senior-specific policy in place, you need to develop one. If you don’t have a special form to use with clients in which you ask them to appoint a third party you can contact in the event you observe diminished capacity in your client and at the same time have them waive confidentiality if the time comes, you need to do this now. If you aren’t sure how to go about developing a senior-specific policy, we understand. It’s a little complicated and you need guidelines and a format.
We have just the thing for you. We have created a Ten Step Policy Development Template, complete with forms and instruction in how to create a great policy at AgingInvestor.com. Get yours and you will be ready to go in a very short time. We’ve taken the guesswork out of the equation and that will save you time and money. It’s almost done for you. Your particular goals will be met.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, Mediator