Dementia — the D word

Karlyn M. Jones Wealth Planning

Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, teaches service professionals how to support their clients in times of grief, loss, and transition. Amy states that 72% of Financial Advisors report providing their clients with information on aging and cognitive decline. Advisors know firsthand the emotional and financial challenges Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia can have on a family system. What can we as Advisors do? We can educate ourselves, we can educate our clients, we can observe client behavior, and we can provide resources.

What is Dementia?

With aging comes some “normal forgetfulness”. Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. Dementia is actually caused by disease. Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. The Alzheimer’s Association defines Dementia as “the severe loss of thinking, memory, and reasoning skills such that the person is unable to carry out the normal activities of daily life.” The most common type of Dementia is Alzheimer’s disease; more than half of diagnosed Dementia cases are being classified as Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the symptoms and how is Dementia diagnosed?

Most types of Dementia are slow and progressive. The first signs of dementia can occur 10-12 years before an actual diagnosis. Dementia can be caused by at least 18 different diseases and is more common in women than in men.

The following ten warning signs may signal Alzheimer’s:
  • memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • challenges in planning and solving problems
  • difficulty in completing tasks at home or at work
  • confusion with time or place
  • trouble understanding visual images
  • new problems with words in speaking or writing
  • misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • decreased or poor judgement
  • withdrawal from work or social activities
  • changes in mood and personality.

When someone is showing some or all of these signs, they should be encouraged to contact their doctor for an evaluation. This evaluation may include a physical exam, testing for cognitive abilities, a brain scan and blood work. The physician will ask for a detailed description of the cognitive changes that the patient and/or a family member has observed. Early diagnosis can provide the maximum benefits from available treatments and clinical trials and have been shown to improve the quality of the patient’s life.

Which documents should be in place?

It is important to have legal documents in place { preferably in advance } of any such diagnosis. Recommended documents include a Standard Will, Living Will, Five Wishes, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and a Diminishing Capacity Letter. The Alzheimer’s Association website offers a Legal and Financial Worksheet guide that can be downloaded.

Where to go for help?

Health care professionals and your local Alzheimer’s Association {} are excellent resources for patients and their family members. The following list of resources may be helpful

Whether you are the patient, a family member, a friend, or a financial advisor, learning about the symptoms of Dementia, having the correct documents in place and knowing where to go for support will better prepare each of us to cope with and care for those who receive a diagnosis of dementia.

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