What To Do When Your Aging Client’s Health Is Failing
Financial professionals can find themselves in an uncomfortable position when they have a long time aging client who is in declining health. Of course, you know the client and can see that she’s struggling with a lot of issues. You may want to do something but this stuff is just not in your wheelhouse. Longevity is great but not when you start to lose the ability to manage on your own. What are you supposed to do for these clients?
You’re trained to understand economics, taxes, financial products, planning. But you’re not trained to direct aging people to whatever resources they may need as they get older. If they have family, you may expect family to step up, but you see that it may not be happening. Should you call them? Do you even know them? Do you have your client’s permission? And what if they don’t have family? That’s even worse. Here they are getting frail and more vulnerable by the day and you are just watching helplessly.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can get acquainted with some basic resources in your area and the areas where your clients live. Maybe they never figured they’d live so long as to actually need help. When they do, you can be a starting point to help them find what’s out there.
Let’s imagine you have an aging client who is having trouble getting around and she needs some help with chores at home. She tells you about it when you ask her how things are going. She is shy to ask for help and reluctant to admit that it’s harder and harder to live alone. You don’t know what to say. Or do you?
One source of help everyone should know about is the Area Agency on Aging. These Federally funded programs connect elders to appropriate community organizations and places to get assistance. Their mission is to help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
AAAs contract with local service providers to deliver many direct services, such as meals, transportation and in-home services. However, most agencies are direct providers of Information and Referral/Assistance, case management, benefits/health insurance counseling and family caregiver support programs.
Some are incorporated into a county’s health and human services departments. Some are separate. Large states have many AAAs. Smaller less populated states have fewer of them.
One thing you can do now to be ready to assist your own client who may demonstrate a need is to research where the nearest Area Agency on Aging is in your client’s community, download a brochure or information package and let your client know it’s there. If he needs help at home, transportation services, vetted information about local service providers, an AAA is a great place to start.
This whole aging client issue can be a reflection of things you have experienced in your own family. Perhaps you have an aging parent or ill grandparent. Another problem solving source of information is our book the Family Guide to Aging Parents: Answers to Your Legal, Healthcare and Financial Questions. Learn what’s in it here. It can get you more comfortable with those difficult conversations.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney