You hear us talk a lot about baby boomers. Particularly around statistics like the money they’ve accumulated, the longevity they’ll enjoy and the needs they’ll have in retirement. All of which lead to a desire for many Canadians to receive retirement advice—91% of Canadians plan on having an advisor help them when they reach retirement1—and a tremendous opportunity for you to provide that advice.

But there’s another statistic we seldom talk about: how many of these boomers will be among the Canadians afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. The numbers2 are quite staggering:

  • Currently 500,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia
  • There’s a new case diagnosed in Canada every five minutes
  • More than 1.1 million Canadians will have dementia by 2038
  • Economic impact will be $153 billion by that year, or 10 times what it is now

While the disease becomes more prevalent with age, not only older people get Alzheimer’s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can strike people in their 50s, and even as early as their 40s and 30s.3

You may be confronted with a situation where you suspect a client, boomer or otherwise, has failing mental faculties. So what should you do if you think a client has dementia? Unfortunately there are no clear-cut solutions or financial industry procedures and standards.

Not doing anything may jeopardize the client’s financial well-being. A client with dementia may be prone to reckless financial decisions.

For you, however, there are challenges. While you have an obligation to do what’s in your client’s best interests, you may be uncomfortable in bringing up the subject with them. What’s more, you have to be mindful of any legal or privacy obligations.

Being careful to protect yourself from a legal and compliance standpoint should be foremost for you. While the dos and don’ts can be complex, here are a few guiding principles to think about if you suspect a client has dementia:

  • It could be a breach of privacy to reach out to your client’s family. While it may be your immediate reaction, you first may want to discuss this with your client. He or she can then choose to get a medical opinion or an independent competency assessment.
  • You should never sell a product to a client with dementia. Consider this cautionary tale of an advisor in California.
  • Fully document any kind of service you’re providing—calls, meetings, anything that might even seem insignificant at the time—to ensure that you have evidence of doing the right thing. While this can be time-consuming, it’s a prudent way to protect your client’s interests and yourself.

The overall guiding principle, of course, is that it’s really about doing what’s right for the client.

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1 Source: Canadian Boomers and the New Retirement, PMG Intelligence, 2009

2 Source: The Alzheimer Society of Canada

3 Source:

Rocco Taglioni, Senior Vice-President, Head of Distribution, Individual Insurance and Wealth, is responsible for the overall leadership of Sun Life Financial’s distribution organizations across its Retail business in Canada. His role encompasses the leadership of the distribution company, as President Sun Life Financial Distributors Inc., as well as the Insurance and Wealth wholesaling sales organizations. Through the various leadership teams he oversees the development, direction, and execution of the Distribution strategies centered on wealth management, protection, retirement, and estate and financial planning.

Since joining Sun Life in 2004, Rocco has held various executive leadership roles, including Vice-President Business Development, Group Benefits; Head of Individual Wealth Management; Senior-Vice-President, Client Solutions; and most recently Senior Vice-President, Distribution and Marketing, Individual Insurance and Wealth. Throughout his tenure at Sun Life, Rocco has led various business strategies centered on building, transforming, and evolving organizations and teams to drive higher levels of performance and success.

Rocco has 36 years of experience in strategic leadership in the insurance and investment industries. He has served on and is a member of a number of boards. Rocco is currently President and Chair, Sun Life Financial Distributors (Canada) Inc. and is a member of the Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc. board. He is a member of various industry associations, including Advocis, GAMA Canada, the Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute, and the Association of Canadian Pension Management.

Rocco holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from York University.