September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day

People worry about the financial aspects of retirement, but just as with the rest of your life, money may be the least of your concerns in retirement. Quality of life and your general well being likely take a much higher place on your priority list than the size of your investment account or what the stock market is doing.

September marks World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day.

We all get older and our ability to live independently and manage our personal finances naturally declines as we age.  For some of us, however, these declines can be significant and well beyond the “normal” aging process.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association over 5.5 million Americans have some form of Alzheimer’s dementia. As the American population ages these numbers will only increase. By the year 2050 an estimated 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, there is no cure and little is known about preventing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Yet, there are steps families can take to prepare for the possibility of living with this illness.

First, recognize that Alzheimer’s happens. In fact, it could even happen to you. Here in Minnesota more than 90,000 of our parents, grandparents and other family members currently live with this disease. By the year 2050 this number is expected to rise to over 120,000. Although the likelihood of having Alzheimer’s increases significantly with age, most people with the disease are between the ages of 65 and 85. Some experts estimate that one person in 10 over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s.

Second, watch out for the warning signs. Alzheimer’s is an illness that typically comes on gradually, progressively getting worse as you age. Age-related memory loss is normal. However, people experiencing the early onset of Alzheimer’s often have trouble completing familiar tasks, especially financial tasks. Missing an occasional bill payment happens to everyone, but missing payments on a more regular basis or failing to perform basic financial tasks may be a sign that things aren’t what they should be.

For a checklist of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s dementia, click here.

Third, designate someone you trust to help with your financial affairs. As people age, it’s not unusual for them to include one or more of their adult children in their financial planning meetings or other situations where the details can be heavy and confusing. Having people you love and trust support you in this way can help ensure that you are getting the information you need and making the right decisions for the right reasons.

However, even with people you love and trust, you still need to be careful. Often it’s family members, close friends or others in your inner circle who are most likely to take advantage of you financially. To help reduce this risk, try to involve more than one person in your financial affairs.  A financial roundtable that includes your spouse, your financial advisor, attorney or CPA, and key family members can help create a system of checks and balances, and ensure that your best interest is being met.

Fourth, consider purchasing long-term care insurance. No one wants to buy long-term care insurance. I understand: It’s expensive. The premiums will probably rise. And we would like to think that we won’t need it or that if we do need care, our family will provide it.

Yet, one of the reasons why this type of insurance is so expensive is that the likelihood of placing a claim is high. According to the Alzheimer’s Association the odds of developing Alzheimer’s is about 1 in 9 for all people over age 65. The odds jump to nearly 1 in 5 if you are between 75 and 85, and 1 in 3 for those over the age of 85.

In the event that you do require care it’s usually an adult, female family member who provides that care – usually with no compensation. In 2016, nearly 16 million family and friends provided over 18 billion hours of unpaid assistance to people with Alzheimer’s dementia. A long-term care policy makes it possible for someone to come to your home to provide care, easing the burden on your loved ones.

Long-term care insurance won’t solve all your problems, but it can provide significant financial resources that may allow you to stay in your home, take the pressure off family members who may not be as willing or able to provide care as you think, and could even be your best strategy to shelter a large part of your assets from nursing home expenses.

For more information on the Long Term Care Partnership Program in your state, click here.

Fifth, update your will and estate planning documents – now. There is no time like the present to update your will and trust and other important estate planning documents. Doing so now ensures that your beneficiaries are in place, your health care directive is customized the way you want it, an attorney-in-fact is in place to act on your behalf during your lifetime, and a personal representative or trustee has been designated to act on your behalf after you die.

Taking these steps or amending existing legal documents is extremely difficult to do after you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or have been determined to be “incompetent” to handle your affairs.

Sixth, take care of yourself and remain physically and mentally active. Unlike heart disease or other ailments, the research regarding what causes Alzheimer’s and how to prevent it is limited. However, most experts seem to agree that a good diet combined with physical activity and remaining mentally engaged helps to at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In fact, delaying the onset of memory loss may actually be the cure we seek. The book 100 Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss argues that deferring the onset of Alzheimer’s by just 5 years may reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to 50%. Defer it for 10 years and odds are you will never experience Alzheimer’s in your lifetime.

Do your future self and your loved ones a favor. Take steps now to create a contingency plan in the event that you experience cognitive declines in the future.

For more information regarding the Alzheimer’s crisis watch this video.