Any health diagnosis is scary, however an Alzheimer's diagnosis for a loved one strikes fear and anxiety, and throws one into uncharted waters. The person may have minor symptoms at the beginning, however medical professionals begin to paint the picture for the future of the “long goodbye”.
Several of my clients are going through this challenging chapter of life, as they navigate the mental decline of their spouse, and have to figure out how to handle life activities, including money matters. There is a lot of information available about the necessity for legal and financial protections and the ten steps provided by the Alzheimer's Association in this booklet provide a great roadmap:
- Discuss finances and future care wishes soon after a diagnosis.
- Organize and review important documents.
- Seek legal help from well-qualified financial and legal advisors.
- Estimate possible costs for the entire disease process.
- Look at all of your insurance options.
- Find out which government programs you are eligible for.
- Learn about income tax breaks for which you may qualify.
- Explore financial support you can personally provide.
- Take advantage of low-cost and free community services.
- Consider how personal property and work-related benefits can become a source of income.
As financial advisors, we can help you navigate several things, from identifying potential financial resources to analyzing your investment portfolio with long-term care needs in mind. We can also help facilitate efforts with an estate attorney to be sure appropriate documents are in place.
However, beyond the practical aspects of legal documents, financial planning and protection of resources, there is the day to day shift in your relationship with this person that you have lived with and loved perhaps for decades. One of my clients has started writing a book about her experience, and talks about the strange experience of your spouse still being alive, yet feeling huge loss.
“There are no sympathy cards, maybe no neighbors bringing over mac and cheese, perhaps no clergy person offering care and concern. But you are grieving. Even with the reality that your husband or wife is not going to get better and that everything will not go back to being as it was, there is a way to cope, and there is a way of hope. There is a way to live life in the now, to see the beauty of life in the midst of the chaos and to give thanks for the little things.”
As I observe the strength, creativity, and compassion of the dedicated caregivers that look after Alzheimer patients (spouses, children, friends, medical professionals) it is a great reminder of the tenacity of love that knows no bounds. Perhaps you know someone going through this type of experience, and you can provide some extra support, or just a kind word of encouragement.
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