Have you ever wondered about one of your own client’s capacity for making financial decisions?  Professionals who directly or indirectly sell services and products to aging people may not be clear about financial capacity. It is indeed a complex thing, and one should not underestimate how difficult it can be to make a determination about whether a client is impaired. Does the client seem “out of it” sometimes? Forgetful?  Is he acting strangely? Maybe you just dismissed it if you noticed those things. You may have thought, “he’s just getting old”. Maybe you didn’t think it was any big deal. But was it? Diminished capacity may not be obvious at all. Small warning signs can be missed.  And every warning sign is a clue. The clues can mount up and paint a picture.  You need to be able to see it.  And first you need to know what to look for in your aging clients. How do you decide whether someone has diminished capacity for financial decisions? Ultimately, the question of capacity is a legal decision, aided by lawyers, medical professionals and sometimes by judges.  And lawyers also have a difficult time seeing the grey areas and the nuances of thinking that comprise financial decision-making abilities.  One thing every professional working with seniors should know are the warning signs of dementia. If you see enough of these warning signs, your client is likely to be impaired in her financial judgment Excellent information for the public is available on the Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org. Memory loss is often the first sign of dementia.  There is a difference between memory loss a non-demented person experiences and the memory loss that evolves in to dementia. As an example, forgetting a person’s name is common and we usually remember the name later.  (Does this ever happen to you, “it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t remember right now”?)  People who are developing dementia don’t remember these things later. Their short term memory is eroding steadily.  They forget what was said in the middle of a sentence. They forget appointments. They don’t remember that you spoke with them yesterday. Confusion is another sign.  They may forget where they are going or get lost. They may exhibit unusual behavior from what is normal for them. These are the kinds of things that tip you off that a cognitive problem is looming.  A person who shows you these signs may be impaired for making safe financial decisions. Beware of drawing general conclusions about dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease from a single case with which you may have personal experience. If your client is not doing what your grandmother with Alzheimer’s did, you can’t be certain that your client does not have dementia. Have you as a financial professional had any personal experience with dementia in a family member or client? Let us know about what you did to handle the issues affecting so many. We welcome your input. Need a quick checklist to use to identify the 10 red flags of diminished capacity in your clients? Get yours now by clicking below. It’s free. Click here to get your free downloadable Checklist “The 10 Red Flags of Diminished Capacity” Dr. Mikol Davis & Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., Elder Law Attorney
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