Every profession is facing a common dilemma: what to do about your own impaired colleagues. When there is no mandatory retirement age, there is no one to say, it’s time to quit. Do you think a colleague has dementia?
People are living longer than ever, continuing in their work longer than ever and sometimes they start to “lose it” before they decide to retire. As none of us are absolutely immune from Alzheimer’s or other dementia, or anything that causes cognitive decline, we all need to consider what we would want if it happened to us.
Would you want a friend or colleague to tell you that you’ve got a problem with memory and maybe it’s time to hang it up and rest? Would you want your legal department to embarrass you and tell you to stop handling other people’s money because everyone knows you’re no longer competent? It’s a frightening thought.
Longevity can be great, but not when you are impaired. As a consultant with expertise in aging, I have seen cognitive impairment to a dangerous level in numerous professionals. One was a trial lawyer colleague, high profile and famous. No one stopped him from practicing law until he had nearly destroyed things. I have seen it in a business owner who founded his company and had been going to the office for 50 years. He was kicked out of his favorite restaurant and was physically harassing employees, his Alzheimer’s had gotten so bad. No one made him stop until outsiders (myself and my partner, Dr. Davis) came in and created a plan to prevent him from entering the office again.
I have seen a judge with dementia fall asleep on the bench in the middle of lawyerly argument in court.
I spoke with the sister of a former bank president who had become a financial advisor. He had lost most of his wealth because he could no longer keep track of it and he was being taken advantage of. He was living in squalor before family intervened. During that time, he was still working as a wealth manager.
These are real cases. The message is that we need a strategy and a policy in any office with advisors who work into their senior years, to address the possible impairment that might occur.
There is a way to do this so as not to needlessly embarrass the affected person. There is a way to require that a person with memory loss confirmed by colleagues should step down and give up managing anyone’s assets. This should thought out in every office. Clients need protection. It takes construction of a reasoned policy to address the impaired advisor confidentially by first requesting retirement and then mandating retirement if the advisor refuses to go along.
Pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65. That would not work for many other kinds of professionals. But something has to be done. If you want some concrete action steps to put in place in your office, you will find them in our book, Succeed With Senior Clients, A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Best Practices. Get your copy today by clicking here.
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, elder Law Attorney, & Dr. Mikol Davis, Gerontologist co-founder of AgingInvestor.com