Financial advisers are being encouraged by Equity Trustees to keep a watchful eye out for any warning signs that indicate their elderly clients might be the victims of abuse.
According to Equity Trustees' national manager of estate planning, Anna Hacker, changes in an elderly client's personality, allowing other people to increasingly speak on their behalf, and those people not wanting the adviser to contact their elderly client are possible indications that "elder abuse" is occurring.
"Financial advisers are in an ideal position to recognise and flag elder abuse incidences in their client base, particularly in the case of long-standing clients where there have been years – or decades – of a relationship in place," Ms Hacker said.
"Those who are in the early stages of dementia are particularly vulnerable to elder abuse. It goes beyond just forgetting things, although this can also be an early indication."
Ms Hacker added that advisers need to be aware of "Noddy syndrome" among elderly clients where they will agree with whatever is suggested to them because they "do not want to cause problems".
"This is a difficult position for most people, even in ordinary circumstances. But in the case of vulnerable elderly people, especially those in the early stages of dementia, they are likely to just nod and agree, rather than create a fuss," she said.
"One way of dealing with this issue is not to say, 'I was told you wanted to do X', but instead to encourage the client to tell you what they want. Never present the change as a fait accompli.
"If you have any concerns, it is very important to have thorough file notes with as much information as possible recorded in the client's own words," Ms Hacker said.
Advisers do, overall, need to be mindful of how they deal with the relatives of elderly clients, she added.
"It is important to be sure that you actually have the authority to deal with the relatives. If you do have the authority, it is important to recognise whether the relatives are acting in their own best interests, or in the best interests of your elderly client," Ms Hacker said.
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