Clients can get angry, defensive or depressed at the suggestion that they are having cognitive difficulties, even if advisors raise the issue with sensitivity and forethought. But this doesn't mean that advisors should ignore signs of problems.

If advisors wait until older clients show signs of diminished capacity, discussions with them may be difficult or impossible. "It's not an easy thing to say to someone: 'I think you're having trouble remembering,'" says Emily Drake, a senior advisor and partner at Fairport Asset Management who is also a longtime board member of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging in Cleveland.

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