We live in a dynamic and inspiring time. Advancements in healthcare are doing wonders for retirees. Many are living longer, in greater physical health, maintaining their mobility and independence. However, there has also been a growing impediment to that independence – dementia. This syndrome that characterizes the decline of cognitive functions and encompasses degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s is impacting more and more every year. While it can be very uncomfortable to consider yourself or a loved one suffering from such an illness, living in this age of dementia makes planning for its onset a necessary endeavor.
The statistics are sobering. Those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can typically live four to eight years after the initial diagnosis. However, there are also those who can live up to twenty years after their first diagnosis. As this is a disease that wrecks the mind, not the body, some can live up to 5 years in long-term care, rather than the typical two years of other illnesses. Needless to say, the costs of care can be staggering. With expenses ranging from various prescriptions, personal care supplies, limited or long-term care services, there is clearly a lot to plan for. Many rely on Medicare to cover the expenses. Yet, Medicare does not cover everything, oftentimes paying up to 80% of costs, only covering fees that are considered “medically necessary” and taking time to determine what falls under that qualification.1 When you or your loved one is struggling daily with the complications of dementia, hope can seem far off or entirely out of reach.
Due to the subtle ways symptoms can first appear, many can go years without a diagnosis. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the illness is not affecting their lives. While there are specific stages of decline with various forms of dementia, financial matters are generally impacted immediately. Memory suffers, with individuals forgetting to stay current with their bills or having issues understanding their bank and account statements. With subsequent stages, financial skills, along with others, decline further. It can be a rapid and steep decline. An individual’s independence, financial and otherwise, can be compromised very quickly.
This is why it is very important to discuss financial and legal matters once a loved one has been diagnosed, regardless of whether it may feel awkward or uncomfortable. The sooner these conversations take place, the better. There is a lot of information to cover and a lot of decisions on the possible future to make. Most importantly, the earlier the conversations are started, the more of a role the diagnosed person will have. At the end of the day, that is what we all want, for our loved one’s wishes and desires to be upheld, even when they may no longer be able to vocalize them.
In addition to helping our loved ones afflicted with these diseases, we cannot forget the loved ones providing the assistance. The strain that can get placed on a familial caregiver can often get overlooked. If not adequately planned for, some will dip into their savings and sell their investments to cover the mounting costs to care for their loved ones. Additionally, the stress of the situation can detrimentally impact the physical and emotional health of the caregiver, which can put both individuals at risk.
Clearly, there is a lot to consider, and for many, it is easy to get overwhelmed, flounder in all the unfamiliar information and overlook that which we are not well-versed on. This is where your financial professional can assist you, both in the midst of this difficult time and also well before the actual diagnosis. They can help you make decisions and preparations, as well as educate you on the myriad of things you may not be aware of but need to know. Additionally, Trilogy Financial advisors are trained to not only identify when clients may be exhibiting symptoms of dementia but to continually monitor these behaviors as well. We truly do take our clients’ well-being seriously. Many individuals I have encountered have two distinct fears about growing older. The first is running out of money. The second is becoming a burden to their family. With dementia, those two fears can become a reality. However, with the proper preparation and planning, they don’t have to be.