Alzheimer’s advocate Lori La Bey is on a mission to help make the world “dementia friendly.”

“We have to change our culture in the way we care for one another and the way we manage our businesses,” La Bey told a group of financial advisors this spring in Houston, during a Transamerica Coaching Forum.

Alzheimer’s Speaks

La Bey, whose mother lived with Alzheimer’s for three decades, is the founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks, an organization dedicated to helping people, businesses, and communities shift their thinking about dementia.

The former real estate agent said she can relate to advisors because she understands what it means to work with clients.

“Making sure my clients understood their options and how their lifestyle and health might impact those choices was critical, much like a financial advisor,” La Bey said about her 25-year career in real estate.

In Houston, she urged advisors to do four things to help them develop a dementia-friendly business:

1. Be inclusive of clients with dementia by having open conversations with them

Discussing Alzheimer’s is never easy, but advisors can’t afford to avoid the conversation because some of their clients will likely develop dementia as the Baby Boomers age.

“People say: ‘That’s not my role. I’m not a therapist. I’m not a counselor.’ But, it really is a critical role because I would imagine most (advisors) want to protect (their) business,” La Bey said.

Having open conversations and creating a plan before clients begin showing signs of dementia is one way advisors can protect themselves. La Bey also said advisors should get to know their clients’ family members, because developing those relationships can be crucial in maintaining assets when wealth is transferred.

2. Make clients feel comfortable by showing awareness and support

People with dementia may be embarrassed about the disease and could feel uncomfortable when talking with their advisor. La Bey said taking the fear out of the conversation and showing empathy can help put clients at ease.

3. Provide resources clients and caregivers can use

This can include connecting clients and their caregivers with an elder law attorney, accountant, memory care or assisted living, adult day care, transportation services, housekeeping, or even a handyman.
“Clients with dementia and their care partners don’t have time to explore all of this,” La Bey said. “If you can help build that resource wheel for them, you will be a friend for life, and they will refer others to you.”

4. Join the Purple Angel Project

This global project, which is free to join, is designed to raise awareness, and to remove the fear, isolation, and stigma associated with dementia. It was started in the United Kingdom in 2012 and has spread to 17 countries. The goal is to promote the purple angel symbol and have it become as well known as the pink ribbon is for cancer.

La Bey will send A Purple Angel Kit, including the symbol, to anyone who joins.

“The purpose of the symbol is really just to get people to ask ‘What is it?'” she said. “That’s one of the ways you can begin the whole dementia-friendly process.”

Dementia-Friendly America initiative

La Bey told advisors they can expect to hear more about dementia-friendly businesses and communities.

In mid-July, during the White House Conference on Aging, the Dementia-Friendly America initiative was launched in several communities across the country. The initiative is a nationwide expansion of Minnesota’s ACT on Alzheimer’s program, which La Bey participated in as a board member in Roseville, a Twin Cities’ suburb.

“There’s a lot of community effort and government effort coming together to give support to people with dementia,” La Bey said. “Each of you is really in a power seat, not only to build bridges, but to help build your brand through just delivering services a bit differently.”

If you would like hard copies of any material, or to learn more about this topic, please contact your Transamerica wholesaler at 800-851-7555. Our Field Guide to Dementia program also includes a presentation designed specifically to educate advisors about how to help clients living with dementia.