Imagine the frustration you would feel if you had to struggle to remember the words needed to communicate with an acquaintance, close friend or loved one.

This is the reality people with dementia experience every day.

In this video featuring Certified Financial PlannerTM Steve Starnes , you’ll learn three valuable tips to effectively communicate with this clientele.

“This is one of the most important ways we can help clients and also save ourselves a lot of time,” he said about learning how to communicate with clients with dementia.

Starnes, who has worked with more than 20 clients and families affected by dementia, said the Alzheimer’s Association® lists several tips for effectively communicating with people affected by Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, and he shared three ideas he finds helpful.

As your client’s dementia advances, the individual may be easily confused or struggle to follow a conversation. Starnes said this is why it’s important for Financial Professionals to:
  1. Keep conversations simple and ask closed-ended, “yes/no” questions.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Show clients you understand how they feel.

Starnes gave examples of open- and closed-ended questions.

“An open‑ended question is, ‘What would you like to drink?'” he said.  “A closed‑ended question is, ‘Would you like tea or coffee?’ There’s a clear choice or right answer there.”

Another example of an open-ended question that financial professionals often use is: How do you feel about that? Starnes said it’s better to ask a client with dementia: Does that sound OK to you?

“You can ask the same kind of questions,” he said. “Just frame them differently.”

He also suggested financial firms consider including tips for communicating with clients with dementia in all staff training.

“Conversation about communication tips is really helpful,” Starnes said. “The person answering the phone, the person who is taking the client’s service request for withdrawal, and at the advisory level, everyone in the firm who interacts with the client can benefit from that.”

If you want to learn more about this topic, our Field Guide to Dementia series contains resources and presentations designed specifically to educate financial professionals about how to help clients living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

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