Despite that at 84%, the vast majority of advisers come into contact with a client with Alzheimer's disease, only 4% of the 350 advisers polled by Fidelity Investments feel they have the tools and training necessary to help those clients.

Those concerns start at the very beginning of the problem. Half of advisers won't address with the client that they suspect Alzheimer's because they don't want to insult the client by potentially misdiagnosing benign symptoms. Advisers are also largely in the dark about many of the specific financial and legal considerations that go hand-in-hand with Alzheimer's disease.

Yet failure to act can be catastrophic. Fidelity reckons that a 65-year-old couple retiring now will need $240,000 to cover medical expenses. That figure more than doubles to $495,000 if one spouse contracts a long-term illness such as Alzheimer's, more if that spouse lives beyond his or her expected life expectancy.

Fidelity projects that as many as 10 million Baby Boomers will develop Alzheimer's disease within their lifetimes.

The good news is that at 59%, many advisers are building in contingency plans to cover their clients' long-term health risks, but working with a client whose mental faculties may be diminishing is an obvious compliance concern. Advisers mitigate this risk by bringing in other family members sooner rather than later, and documenting all decisions made. Few advisers want to palm off their sick clients, though.

Instead, what advisers want is more help finding out what they need to do to continue working with a client afflicted by Alzheimer's, typically education on insurance products and where to find legal help.


(c) 2009 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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