Financial advisors want help with dealing with older clients who develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Fidelity Investments reports.
Fidelity, Boston, came to that conclusion afer surveying about 350 advisors from the independent, wirehouse, insurance, regional, bank and registered investment advisor channels.
About 84% of the U.S. advisors it surveyed have encountered at least one client with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which gradually erodes an individual’s memory and cognitive functions.
Fidelity found that 96% of the advisors feel less than fully equipped to help clients with Alzheimer’s. Half of those who suspect a client may be afflicted with the illness said they are uneasy about bringing up the subject out of fear that they may be wrong about the symptoms, lack information about where to refer clients, or lack knowledge of the financial and legal guidelines needed to best serve a client with the illness.
Fidelity also found that 59% of advisors said that, as a standard practice, they have established plans to deal with clients diagnosed with a debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s. But 41% said they would address the issue only as the need arises.
The most frequent approach advisors cite for managing a client relationship when Alzheimer’s is suspected is to “make sure that a spouse or other family member participates in decision making,” followed by “making certain all activities and decisions are confirmed and well-documented.”
Problems with Alzheimer’s will only increase as more Americans age, warns Fidelity, which has established the Alzheimer’s Project Research Fund to raise money to fight the disease.
“With an aging client base and more than 10 million baby boomers projected to develop Alzheimer’s in their lifetime, if advisors haven’t already been impacted by the disease in their practices, the odds are they soon will be,” warns Gail Graham, an executive vice president at Fidelity.
Fidelity suggests advisory firms prepare by training staff members on the symptoms of the disease, making sure to talk to appropriate firm associates to ensure that they are aware of the issue, and adding the expertise needed to serve clients with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that can cause dementia.