Advisors could increasingly find themselves on the frontlines in helping clients and their families deal with Alzheimer’s disease.
Advisors who meet clients regularly may be most aware of early signs of dementia, said John Koehler, senior vice president of advanced markets at Transamerica Capital.
Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, has a bigger impact on client relationships than other diseases, said Koehler, speaking Friday at the 7th annual Inside Retirement conference produced by Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines in Dallas.
One out of nine Americans age 65-plus has Alzheimer’s, and one in three aged 85 or over is living with the disease, he said. On average, financial advisors have seven clients with some form of dementia.
Managing a budget and making financial decisions are some of the first capabilities lost by Alzheimer’s victims, Koehler said.
Mood and personality changes are also common symptoms, like a “risk-taker who is suddenly worried about too much risk,” he said.
With other health issues like cancer or heart disease, advisors can continue to work with afflicted clients, but Alzheimer’s is different, Koehler noted. At some point, you won’t be able to interact with a client afflicted with Alzheimer’s, perhaps for the last decade of their lives, so establishing relationships with advocates and family members is critical.
An up-to-date estate plan is important, along with a durable power of attorney and advance health care directives.
“The sooner you get the legal process started, the better,” Koehler said, “because once a client loses their [mental] capacity, legally you can’t do anything.”