A Plan for the Ages: Your Client & Dementia

 In Estate Planning, Special Needs Planning

Consider the following statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
  • Only 45% of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (or their caregivers) report being told of their diagnosis
  • In the next 10 years, projections estimate that the number of individuals age 65 and older affected by Alzheimer’s in the United States will go from 5.1 million to 7.1 million – an increase of 40%
    • The state of Texas will likely see an increase in the next 10 years by roughly 44% – going from 340,000 to 490,000.

Put these facts together, and it seems likely that many estate  planners, financial planners or other corollary professionals, will service a client who will have a form of dementia at some point during their career. What’s more – there may never be an official diagnosis reported to you. If you happen to fall into that category of professionals, do you have a plan to how you will address this important issue?

The following are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Start at the very beginning – a very good place to start:

  • At the beginning of your working relationship, make sure to have some candid conversations about who your client deems trustworthy, and persons in their life who may have some “red flags”, i.e. bankruptcy, addiction, financial trouble, criminal history, lawsuits, etc.
  • Execute your institution-­‐specific privacy waiver so that you will be authorized to speak with whoever is appointed power over your client’s finances in the event of his/her incapacity.
  • Make detailed records for your client’s file and update the information after every meeting, noting any changes in family circumstances or new relationships that might have some importance.
  1. Make a list, check it twice:

  • In addition to your institution-­‐specific  privacy waiver, keep a list of  recommended legal documents  your client may need. For example: a Will, Living Will, Durable  medical Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release, Trust, etc.
  • Together, review that comprehensive list with your client’s needs in mind, and recommend any steps your client should take with his/her attorney.
  1. Do your homework:

  • Understand the basics of dementia/Alzheimer’s and be willing to discuss them with your client if you have concerns. The Alzheimer’s Association has some excellent resources, including “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s”, and much more.
  1. Relationships Matter:

  • Having a vibrant working relationship with your client provides the foundation for personal, exceptional service. It also will be vital in discerning whether a  client’s behavior is part of their personality, or a change in personality signaling potential beginnings of dementia.
  • If you begin to have concerns, establish regular meetings so that you are able  to monitor the situation. If it becomes clear that your client is suffering from the onset of dementia, you can continue serving them with dignity, helping to ease the transition of control to their trusted confidant. Keep your client involved as much and as long as possible.
  1. Serve and Protect:

  • Keep a resource list to offer clients in this situation.
  • Keep your client involved as much and as long as possible.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of abuse (i.e. con artists, thieves, scammers).

Contact our office if you have any questions, or if you’d like assistance finding additional resources.


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