How good are you at spotting the telltale signs of diminished capacity in an older client? Many older people have a bit of difficulty remembering. We often dismiss this when we see it, thinking it’s “just getting old”. It may be part of aging, as we do process things more slowly as we age and recall may take longer. But, there is a point when a problem recalling things should be a red flag for diminished capacity for you, the advisor. What are those red flags anyway? How do we label them? There are numerous signs of diminished capacity, more extensive than this article allows, but we’ll look at one category, which we call cognitive signs. Here’s a breakdown of what you should look for when your client has a lot of difficulty remembering things.
What to note and document about memory loss
This is one of the first things most advisors may notice in a client that causes concern. Perhaps she does not remember important meetings, decisions and discussions. Here are some examples of what you may see: Multiple telephone calls in one day that are repetitive and do not make sense. The client forgets that she has already talked with you and is calling about the same thing in another call to you. She repeats a question she already asked you and that you already answered. Client forgets why he has an appointment with you. This can be by telephone or in person. Perhaps the client himself asked for the meeting but then he forgets why. Or perhaps you wanted to discuss a proposed transaction with him and told him that, but when you call or he comes into your office, he has no idea why he is there. Trying to refresh his memory about it does not help. Complete forgetting of an event that just took place. You just spent a hour with your client telling her some important information about upcoming changes to her portfolio. She seemed to understand when you were talking but an hour later she asks you questions as if the meeting you just had never took place. She had totally forgotten about it. No shows. You have arranged meetings, appointments with others or events that require your client’s participation. He agrees on the pre-arranged date and time but then does not show up. When you call him, he has no recollection of the event, that others are involved nor that he had agreed to this.
If your client demonstrates any of these indicators you need to be paying close attention and make an effort to contact your client more often than you did before you noticed these problems. Any or all of them might be warnings of developing dementia. There could be other reasons for memory loss, but you won’t know unless you are keeping good records. The only way to determine if you have a serious problem here is to track these signs over time and document each instance you see. If the problem gets worse, it is time to take it to the next level. In your organization that might mean escalation, or having the documentation reviewed by a committee. Ideally, as we see it, the next step should include contacting the client’s appointed trusted third party who would step in when the client became impaired. To learn more about diminished capacity and just what you should do about it, click here. An hour of accredited learning on the course Best Practices for Clients With Diminished Capacity will make you a lot wiser in your approach.
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney, & Dr. Mikol Davis, Gerontologist co-founder of AgingInvestor.com