In Focus: Protecting your client  

What advisers need to know about dementia

  • To understand common issues arising from dementia
  • To understand the support needs of people who suffer from dementia
  • To learn how to tailor the advice process to a client living with dementia

Care is needed around this as it is easy to assume that all people with dementia must have support, but in reality "depending on their circumstances, the progression of the disease etc, this may not be necessary or helpful", says Page.

Holly Chantler, director at Solicitors for the Elderly and head of private client at Morr & Co, agrees having a loved one present may help “settle” the vulnerable client, “so that they aren’t anxious in unfamiliar surroundings, so it might be good for the person to sit in for a period of time”.

However, Chantler recommends the professional, be they an adviser or a solicitor, also sees the client on their own so as to do a capacity assessment.

This helps assess whether the client is doing things under duress; are they turning to the other person for all the answers, is the person able to recall basic information themselves, for example address or date of birth?

She advises: “Be mindful of who’s in the meeting and the dynamics between them.”

Mental capacity

Mental capacity and dementia may be closely entwined and this in itself creates certain complexities. 

Tish Hanifan, a former barrister who founded Solla to train and support financial advisers working with clients in later life, says: “A big challenge with this is that a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t necessarily mean the client can no longer make any decisions for themselves. Far from it.

“The Mental Capacity Act 2005 emphasises that the question as to capacity is in relation to this decision at this particular time.

“In the early stages of dementia a person may well be able to make some of the decisions if they are empowered to do so.”

Hanifan adds: “A further challenge for advisers working with clients living with dementia is that when they can no longer make decisions for themselves they will have those decisions made for them by either an attorney, if they have made an LPA, or by a deputy appointed by the court if they lost capacity before making an LPA.”

It is for this reason that it is important the adviser ensures they have a good understanding of substituted decision-making and are aware of both the powers an attorney or deputy for the client has in these circumstances, as well as the limitations on those powers.

It is also useful to understand which type of dementia the client has, as different types have differing progressions and symptoms.

Timson says: “This is where the role of appropriate financial advice together with LPA and will recommendations can and does come into its own.”