While 84 percent of advisors say they have experienced Alzheimer’s in their client base, an overwhelming majority say they are unprepared to deal with the disease – 96 percent of advisors surveyed by Harris Interactive for Fidelity who have dealt with the disease said they weren’t fully prepared to help their clients. Additionally, half of advisors said they were uncomfortable broaching the subject, citing fear of being wrong, not knowing where to refer ill clients, or simply lacking the expertise to help a client with special needs as reasons for their reluctance.

This reticence could be detrimental to clients who most need an advisor’s help. According to Fidelity research, a 65-year-old couple retiring this year would need nearly $250,000 to cover medical expenses in retirement; if one spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s, that number could be twice as high.

Advisors named best practices guidelines, better understanding of products, and legal advice to assist clients as the top three tools to help them feel more prepared. Nearly 60 percent of advisors make it standard practice to develop a contingency plan should a client develop the disease.

While most advisors claimed they felt unprepared to help clients with Alzheimer’s, very few were willing to transfer the client to another advisor. When asked how they would manage a client relationship after the disease takes hold, the most frequent response was to bring in another spouse or family member, followed by confirming and documenting all decisions and activities.

Fidelity named several best practices that could help advisors who work with clients suffering from Alzheimer’s:
Train staff on symptoms. If there’s ever a concern that a client’s judgment is impaired, take it to the appropriate associate to follow through.

Create a specialty within the firm to help serve clients with dementia. It may be appropriate for advisors to travel to the client’s home to help them with planning matters, including paying bills or referring them to a nursing home or assisted living facility.