5 Mistakes Professionals Should Never Make With Their Clients

Mistake #1   Not Letting the Client Tell You Their Story
How do you provide your best professional service without understanding the preconceived ideology your client brings to the table?  Paying attention to what the client says, the vocabulary they choose to use, and the very essence of the story they share helps you know how best to communicate with the client.
I make it a practice to write down each concept they present, the values they express, and any wishes or desires they state.  Recognizing these concepts and helping them understand their concerns helps reinforce they are going to get the help they are seeking.

Mistake #2 Talk Fast and Act Inpatient
As we get older our hearing may be effected as well as our thought process may slow down.   Do you talk fast with your clients thinking they are hearing and understanding everything you say?  When you ask do they have any questions and they say no, you have either not connected with them or did not explain your objective well enough.  No one wakes up understanding long term care options, estate planning, and financial planning.   Ask the client questions to ensure they have understood what you have said.   Start over if you must, adjust your speed, your vocabulary, and emphasize what they need to hear.
For a hard of hearing person it is embarrassing to have to say “Huh” all the time, or to admit they did not quite catch what you said.  It’s even worse to feel stupid throughout the conference because the advisor assumes you know more than you do.

Mistake #3 Allow them to hide behind the LIE
They would never LIE on purpose, it happens accidentally.  Over the years when I have ask clients their long term care plan they often smile and say they will kill themselves before they go to a nursing home.  I do not snicker and let them avoid answering me.  I immediately ask them how they will kill themselves and to describe it to me.  They hesitate and quickly realize it is not a valid plan.  I do not allow them to side step around very important planning discussions.

For over 25 years I have met with clients and one of the most useful tools I bring to them is to face the aging process honestly.  Do they have a child that has promised to take care of them in their home?  If so, is that a realistic option emotionally and/or financially?  How much will it cost to stay in their home?  Are they willing to spend their money? How will their choice effect their children?  Who will be willing to assist them?  What are realistic expectations?  Helping the family not to FIB to each other and to face these questions honestly is how we help the most.  By being the BAD GUY we can help everyone to think through the answers to these questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, they are always there – someone needs to be prepared to not ignore them.

Bring your client’s back to reality and review what is not going well right now – explore their legitimate concerns and help them prioritize their focus.  Establish realistic boundaries to enable all family members to maintain a healthy relationship.

Maintaining trust is not always easy.  The shift of co-decision making between parent and child is overwhelming for all family members.  Understanding the responsibilities of being the Power of Attorney and/or the Health Care Surrogate is a new job to most family members.  Avoiding conflict is often difficult when making required decisions.  As the Professional we help everyone understand their role – and help facilitate necessary discussions.

Make sure your elder clients do not become invisible when reviewing planning options.  Constantly ensure their feedback and comments are given consideration, even when it is difficult for the family to hear what they are saying.

Mistake #4 Promise Positive Results
Whoever said “Growing older is not for Sissy’s” knew what they were talking about.  It takes an enormous amount of courage to make the difficult decisions in regards to long term care.  Do not PROMISE your client how awesome and easy it is to relocate into a long term care facility or to have home care.  Or worse yet, let them wait until a crisis to have to make difficult long term care decisions.
Assist your client in determining what their options are and the potential effect on their daily life.  Help your client understand the positive outcomes they may experience with planning and the security they will feel with a plan.

Budget carefully, determine what monthly amount of funds are available to pay for required care.  The budget determines the type of care available within the spending limits.  If you are an estate planner, please articulate in legal documents how the client wants to spend their money.  Are they willing to spend it all on their care or do they want to leave it to their children?
Help the family evaluate home care and facilities with the client’s eyes, not theirs.  It is invaluable to help the client/family understand what the fees cover, how the contract applies to them and ensure the bells and whistles at the facility are ones the client will use.  It is often difficult for the family to see what the client sees versus what the family member may want.

Do not automatically assume home care is too expensive.  Strategizing schedules along with technology provides options we didn’t have five years ago.  Help in the morning and evening for personal care and hygiene, as well as meal preparation and cleaning may keep someone in their home for a long time.  Technology systems as simple as The Nest camera system allows two way communication to more sophisticated systems providing alerts of any movement changes helps families near and far maintain their loved one’s safety within their home.

Be prepared to reassure clients and their families to know they have done everything they could.  Knowing you have considered every resource is comforting even when the outcome is poor.

Mistake #5 Avoid talking about Death
There is nothing more frustrating than someone stating:  “What would you want to happen if you die?”  While meeting with clients, I refer often to my totally clear crystal ball and state “When you die what would you like to happen?”  I remind them it is not an “if you die”, it is a “when you die.”  I allow them to recover by saying, “Unless you know something I don’t.”

Helping them determine how they would choose to die, if given the opportunity is a tremendous gift.  Reassuring them it is okay to be a fighter and try absolutely everything to helping them understand what happens to their mind and body if they refuse a feeding tube helps them determine the right choice for them.  The client needs to know they may always change their mind.  Time and diagnosis may change choices made while healthy. Whether you are drafting the document for them to sign or teaching them how to communicate what they want to their family and healthcare professional, it is an invaluable conversation.
Thank you for reading – feedback or questions are always appreciated!