Aging Clients Need Considerate Advisors
Our client base is aging. People are living longer and continue to need planning and financial services into advanced age. This is good news for CPAs. However, there are health issues that can affect the way we should best communicate with our aging clients.
If you have noticed an older client having trouble paying attention, becoming paranoid, or undergoing personality changes, they may be suffering from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 70% of all cases. The 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures estimates that over 5.1 million Americans aged 65 or older have Alzheimer’s. By 2030, that number is estimated to grow to over 7.7 million. With those numbers, it is easy to see that understanding and helping aging clients will continue to become increasingly important not only for CPAs, but for all types of advisors.
As difficult as it may be to bring up this topic, advisors need to have a discussion with the client, if they demonstrate the above mentioned symptoms. Legal documents and engagement letters should contain the names of contact persons in case the client should lack the mental capacity to make sound decisions. Most importantly, we should accommodate clients by taking the following steps:
- Conduct shorter meetings
- Limit the focus to one or two topics
- Be clear of deadlines and courses of action
- Hold meetings in familiar surroundings like the client’s home
- Use simple sentences and limit questions to one at a time
- Do not argue or correct
- Above all, be patient
As our clients age, there is a strong likelihood that some, or perhaps even many, will develop a type of dementia. Service should remain our top priority. By communicating in a way that addresses their needs, we ensure that our clients continue to see us as trusted advisors.