One in eight Americans over 65 is living with Alzheimer's. It's a crisis that impacts the entire family, and money mistakes can be clues to the onset of the disease. Here are some tips to help you cope.
Do you find yourself or a loved one making small money mistakes on an ongoing basis?
We all make the occasional mistake, from the occasional bounced check to incorrectly counting out change. But consistent money missteps, like forgetting bills or falling victim to scams, should set off warning bells.
Research has shown money mistakes can be an early clue to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to die and impairs function. One in eight older Americans – an estimated 5.4 million people – are living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Here are more details and steps you can take to protect yourself and your family’s finances.
1. Early clues to the disease
Research headed up by Daniel Marson, a neurology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, showed a marked difference in the ability to solve money problems among those with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
In one study, test subjects were asked to identify coins, count money for a purchase, explain what a check was, read a bank statement, determine a fair price, and analyze a bill. The study showed the more progressed the disease was in a participant, the less likely they were to problem solve.
In another of Marson’s studies, seniors with mild symptoms were unable to explain the risks of telephone solicitations, something that can result in being victimized. “There’s an epidemic of financial exploitation aimed at people with mild cognitive impairment,” Marson told Kiplinger.com.
The sooner you think Alzheimer’s could be a problem, the sooner you need to get your financial house in order.
2. Possible costs
Ongoing medical care is one of many expenses to plan for. The Alzheimer’s Association estimated a whopping $200 billion was spent in 2012 on care for those with dementia. It typically costs $214 a day, or $78,110 a year, just for a semi-private room in a nursing home.
Other costs as the disease progresses can include home safety modifications, adult day care services, in-home care services, prescription drugs, and medical equipment.
3. Getting ready
If you confront dementia, either personally or with a family member, prepare as soon as possible. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends doing a complete review of all financial documents and organizing them in one place, including:
- Bank and brokerage account information
- Deeds and any mortgage or ownership documents
- Insurance policies
- Monthly and outstanding bills
- Pensions and other retirement benefits
- Rental income documents
- Social Security payment paperwork
- Stock and bond certificates
4. Setting financial goals
Keep in mind you’ll have to prepare for future care as well as ongoing financial commitments like paying bills and making investment choices. A family member or trusted financial adviser can help you find possible financial assistance and help set up investments.
Some sources for help from The Alzheimer’s Association:
- Use the Eldercare Locator online or call (800) 677-1116
- Check the online directory of the Financial Planning Association or call (800) 322-4237
- Use the online directory of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
5. Legal considerations
Establish who will be responsible for financial, legal, and other decisions when you or a loved one are no longer able to do so. One way to do this is to grant a durable power of attorney.
The power of attorney will give authority to a person you choose to make decisions on your behalf. As a legal document, however, the power of attorney must be signed while the person granting the power is still mentally competent.
While states have differing standards, as long as the effects of the disease are minor, the person generally will be considered competent, according to FindLaw.
Hope for the future
New research studies were announced just this week aiming at finding new treatments for the disease.
The National Institute on Aging announced Monday a five-year project including four major studies to develop new treatments. The research will be done by the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, a national academic network.
“The ADCS is a key initiative in the federal program to discover, develop and test new Alzheimer’s treatments and diagnostic tools. Over the years, it has proved invaluable in advancing our understanding about the disease and how to conduct research in this challenging area,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. in a statement announcing the studies. “I am particularly excited that this round of studies will use what we have learned by testing interventions pre-symptomatically, as early as we can in the development of the disease, where we now think the best hope lies for keeping Alzheimer’s at bay.”
Here’s to hoping the studies are successful in finding new treatments and the government’s goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s Disease by 2025 succeeds.