Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Myth Busters: Alzheimers and Dementia Planning for Uncertainty Part II

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Ask The CFP® Practitioner
Darcie Guerin

“Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength, not my weakness.” – Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), American philosopher and Louisa May Alcott’s father.

Question: I’m concerned about the possibility of my parent developing Alzheimer’s or experiencing some sort of cognitive decline. What advice can you offer?

Answer: Having experienced this heartbreaking disease in my own family is one of the reasons I chose this career. Having the difficult and tender conversations with those we love before it’s too late is critical. It’s important to discuss financial, legal and caregiving plans with our families at all stages of life. Hopefully there will never be a need to take any action regarding the subject matter, but it’s much better to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

As with all illnesses, early detection is vital in protecting the future of those affected and their families. Research by The Alzheimer’s Association® shows declining financial skills are among the first symptoms to appear with Alzheimer’s which is the most common form of dementia. As of March 2016 more than 5 million Americans, including 1 in 9 people over age 65, are living with Alzheimer’s and someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 67 seconds.

There are ten warning signs or symptoms of the disease that The Alzheimer’s Association® has created. Of course each individual is unique and these are general statements and behaviors not always associated with the disease but could be a reason to schedule an appointment with a doctor.

1.Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
Examples include forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, or repeatedly asking for the same information.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
Monitoring monthly bills or following a recipe may become difficult.

3. Trouble completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
Confusion while driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work, or remembering rules to a favorite game.

4. Uncertainty with time or place.
Examples include losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. People with Alzheimer’s may, at times, forget where they are or how they got there.

5. Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Some people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast, potentially causing problems with driving.

6. Problems with words in speaking or writing.
This involves problems with following or joining conversations. Someone may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue. They may also have trouble remembering words to identify objects (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

7. Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps.
An example is placing things in unusual places and not remembering where the individual had been before losing them.

8. Decreased or poor judgment.
This includes making extravagant purchases or giving large amounts of money to telemarketers. People with dementia may also pay less attention to personal hygiene.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Some people with Alzheimer’s may begin to have trouble following their favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a project associated with a favorite hobby.

10. Changes in mood and personality.
Mood changes can include confusion, depression, or the acts of being suspicious, fearful, or anxious. People with Alzheimer’s may also become easily upset at home, at work, or with friends.

You’re Not Alone 

If mild decline is noticed, getting help sooner than later allows people to possibly receive treatments and participate in drug trials that could help them maintain their independence longer. If moderate decline is observed, meaning increased frustration and changes in someone’s sense of reality, it may be time to work closely with a trusted financial advisor. Developing this relationship may alleviate some of the burden of managing your parent’s finances.

Due to the progressive nature of the disease, there may be a limited window in which someone may be able to articulate their wishes for future care, living arrangements, finances and legal matters. For this reason, it is important to discuss concerns and formulate a plan for the “what ifs” ahead of time. As memory worsens during severe decline people with Alzheimer’s will have a hard time remembering, may have significant mood swings, personality changes and need help with the skills of daily living such as eating, bathing and using the bathroom facilities. You’ll certainly want to have financial planning completed well before this stage.

Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, and the stress associated with this critical role can make it difficult to take action when things worsen. There are resources to help you feel confident when making decisions for, or with, a loved one living with dementia. Work with your financial advisor before taking final action.

Financial planning involves much more than managing an investment portfolio. In my next column we’ll cover five distinct financial management issues, caregiving plans and resources for caregivers. Stay focused and plan accordingly.

Information contained in this report was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of capital. As federal and state tax rules are subject to frequent changes, you should consult with a qualified tax advisor prior to making any investment decision. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. The opinions expressed are those of the writer, but not necessarily those of Raymond James and Associates, and subject to change at any time. 

“Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.” 

This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email darcie.guerin@raymondjames.com. Website: www.raymondjames.com/Darcie

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