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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Managing Mental Decline

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What do you do when an older client begins to phone you repeatedly, asking over and over for information that she has already heard?

In Bethesda, Maryland, the Family Firm requests that older clients think about whom they would trust with decision-making if their mental acuity should begin to diminish. Financial planner Donald Lord and his colleagues phrase this question delicately, and clients usually respond by designating a child, other relative, close friend, or professional advisor as their advocate. Their choice is confirmed in a signed agreement. If need be, this individual will be consulted by the Family Firm to help make important financial and other life decisions for the client in question.

This is a very proactive approach to take with aging clients whose ability to remember and act on important information may decline. Lord stresses the value of assembling a team around cognitively challenged clients to help them do what is best for them, rather than leaving them to make crucial decisions on their own.

Surrendering one’s autonomy is often excruciatingly painful for older people. But the alternative–trying to remain completely independent despite impaired judgment–can be even worse.