Although most advisors have clients who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, virtually none feels fully prepared to assist such clients, according to a new Fidelity Investments survey.

The results, released today, were based on completed responses of 396 financial advisors who were surveyed online in April. The advisors were from independent, wirehouse, insurance, regional, bank and registered investment advisor (RIA) firms. Harris Interactive, an independent company not affiliated with Fidelity Investments, conducted the survey without identifying Fidelity as the sponsor.

The survey found that 84% of financial advisors in the United States have been touched by clients who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease and are looking for education and resources to help them assist these clients. Despite their experience with the disease, 96% of advisors do not feel fully prepared to assist clients with Alzheimer's, according to the Fidelity results.

Half of advisors say that in cases where they suspect a client is suffering from Alzheimer's, they do not feel comfortable raising the subject. Their reasons include fear they may be incorrect about the symptoms, lack of knowledge about where to refer clients, or insufficient expertise in the financial and legal guidance needed to best serve a client with Alzheimer's.

Six in 10 (59%) respondents say that as a standard practice they have put plans in place for all clients in the event they are diagnosed with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer's. Alternatively, 41% of advisors address the issue when the need arises.

The top three resources advisors say would help them feel more prepared to assist clients impacted by Alzheimer's are best practice guidelines, greater understanding of insurance and protection products, and legal advice to assist clients.

Over the past three years, more than half (54%) of advisors say they have seen higher demand for insurance or protection products, such as long-term care insurance, which can provide financial support for clients suffering from Alzheimer's, the survey says. To meet this growing demand, 80% of advisors say they handle demand for these types of products in-house, while only 20% refer this business to someone else.

To better prepare their firms for helping clients with Alzheimer's Disease, Fidelity suggests these steps:

Train advisory firms' staff on the symptoms of Alzheimer's. If anyone gets concerned about a client's ability for sound judgment, advisors may want to consider sharing these concerns with appropriate associates within the firm to ensure they are aware of the issue and take the necessary steps to help protect both the client and the firm.

Create a specialty in serving clients with dementia-related diseases. Depending upon the client, it may be appropriate for advisors to travel to clients' homes and assist them with financial planning matters, which could include helping to pay bills. Additionally, advisors could also direct clients to third-party resources that can assist with issues such as finding nursing homes or assisted-living centers.

Develop a relationship with the Alzheimer's Association. When someone is diagnosed with the disease, the Alzheimer's Association is one of the first places for the patient and family to turn to for resources. It may be helpful to advisors if they are listed among the financial and legal planning resources the association provides.

Fidelity says it will making available a special kit developed by HBO to help advisors hold a screening of The Alzheimer's Project, an HBO documentary film series, in their local community. The kit includes everything advisors would need for the screening, from DVDs of the documentary to tips for hosting the event and moderating a discussion along with a glossary and list of other resources.