“The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.”
— Carson McCullers,
The Square Root of Wonderful
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of all cases. More than 15 million Americans are caring for an individual living with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.* As a caregiver, you witness the effects of the insidious disease every day. You handle everything from household chores, such as shopping and cooking, to helping your loved one with bathing, choosing clothing, arranging doctor appointments, transportation, and administering accurate, doctor-prescribed medication. In short, you spend your day trying to help your loved one live with as much dignity as possible. You also likely manage your loved one’s finances. Research shows declining financial skills are among the first symptoms to appear in the early stages of dementia.
Sometimes, caregivers assume this job without having adequate experience handling money or dealing with financial issues. This added responsibility can leave caregivers overwhelmed and wondering where to start. As a result, they may avoid making important financial decisions on behalf of their loved one. When tackling this responsibility, we suggest you work with a financial advisor who has experience helping clients living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In 2014, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $217.7 billion. That dollar amount is nearly 46% of the net value of Wal-Mart sales in 2013 ($473.1 billion) and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2013 ($28.1 billion).
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that includes three basic stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Denial is one serious challenge families often face with Alzheimer’s. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, people with dementia have a limited window in which they will be able to articulate their wishes for future care, living arrangements, finances, and legal matters. For this reason, it’s important for families to discuss their concerns and work through this denial phase in the mild stage of cognitive decline.
People with Alzheimer’s live an average of four to eight years after diagnosis; however, each case is different, and some people may live up to 20 years with the disease. Some people may also experience dementia for several years before receiving an official diagnosis. Each stage of decline has specific characteristics, and there are several steps you can take to responsibly manage your loved one’s finances.
Nearly 60% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and nearly 40% report symptoms of depression. Due to the physical and emotional impact of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and other dementia caregivers accrued $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in the United States in 2014.* Among caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, 75% reported being employed at some point during their care responsibilities, and 17% had to give up their jobs due to their caregiving duties.*
Caring for someone living with dementia is a noble act of love, but it can be overwhelming. Caregivers often take responsibility for their loved one’s finances, sometimes assuming the duty without having adequate experience. When developing a financial plan for a person with dementia, it’s prudent to work with a financial advisor who has experience helping this clientele. You should understand there are three basic stages of cognitive decline and each phase has specific characteristics. You and your loved one’s financial advisor should draft plans as soon as possible so the person with dementia can participate in discussions and disclose his or her wishes for future care, living arrangements, finances, and legal matters.
It’s also important to be aware of caregiver burnout. You cannot provide effective care if you neglect your own physical and mental well-being. The MIT AgeLab’s five areas of focus provide a comprehensive framework to help you and your loved one’s advisor develop a sound plan designed to help alleviate the family’s financial worries as the disease progresses. The ultimate goal is to help your loved one live in a comfortable and respectful manner.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND DETAILS PLEASE REVIEW THE LINK: Transamerica_Caregiver_Guide