October 28, 2020 Elder Law

Working with Aging Clients: A Guide for Legal, Business, and Financial Professionals

By Carolyn Rosenblatt

With our aging population, more and more people are working with older clients across all areas of practice. There are many things we need to know to best serve them―things we did not learn in law school. Declining mental capacity, dementia, and age-related impairments of all kinds appear in our clients, and most lawyers are not well-equipped to manage these problems.

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The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.

The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.

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The nexus between health and legal issues has never been more important than it is now with clients living into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. Working with Aging Clients, written by a nurse-attorney, delves into the sticky problems of how to decide when a client is competent to make decisions about money, case direction, and even participation in conflict resolution.

The worst mistake a lawyer can make is to ignore the warning signs of diminished capacity and to carry on as if everything is fine. That puts both the lawyer and the client at risk. How do we approach this issue of diminished capacity with an older client? What are the red flags every lawyer needs to see and act upon? You will find the answers in this book. The author, Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, shares key insights from a healthcare professional’s view alongside an understanding of how to represent aging clients.

The book also describes common elder-specific issues and the problem areas lawyers are likely to encounter. You will learn the definition of “financial decision-making capacity” and how to judge whether your client has that capacity or not. There are illustrations of specific elder-client situations from real cases and what went right or wrong with them. You may see your own clients in some of these stories.

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Another important topic addressed by this book is financial abuse of the elderly—a $36 billion a year problem in the U.S.―and how lawyers can intervene to keep clients safer. Lawyers have a role to play in prevention, given our close connections to and extensive knowledge of our clients as well as our clients’ trust in us. You will learn that there are steps we can take to stop abuse in its tracks.

Additionally, the book delves into communication issues we encounter with older clients, such as fear, resistance, and what we can do about them. The older client’s perspective will differ from that of a younger person. You will learn how to anticipate and respect the differences in order to get your job done most effectively. You will also learn how to make your office more “age-friendly” and accessible to accommodate any disabilities and/or impairments often seen in aging clients.

Since many elders may be accompanied by family members in our dealings and transactions with them, the book also addresses family conflicts. It suggests using elder mediation as the best approach to resolving family issues when managing our aging clients.

This book will increase your expertise and confidence in meeting the challenges of representing older clients, no matter what your area of practice may be.

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Carolyn Rosenblatt

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Carolyn Rosenblatt has more than forty-five years of experience in her combined professions of nursing and legal practice. She is the co-founder of AgingParents.com and AgingInvestor.com, and she is the author of both The Family Guide to Aging Parents and The American Bar Association publication Working with Aging Clients: A Guide for Lawyers, Business, and Financial Professionals.