Hello?…Is Anybody There?
Planning for Dementia, Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s
By Tom Kirk
Dementia, memory loss, Alzheimer’s…frightening words for sure. But these conditions are becoming more and more common as our overall population ages. After age 65 the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years, growing from one in fourteen people over age 65 to one in six people over the age of 80.
Some memory loss is just part of getting older, making the diagnosis of a more serious condition often difficult. Other times severe memory loss happens all of the sudden because of a stroke.
Once someone has lost their mental faculties beyond a certain point, they can no longer execute even simple legal transactions like signing checks. More complicated things like selling a home, closing a bank account or making a medical decision are out of the question.
This is why it is imperative to have the necessary documents in place before they are needed. This group of documents are sometimes referred to as advance directives because they document what you want done in advance of the situation where you can’t take care of it yourself anymore. These advance directives include durable powers of attorney, medical surrogates, and living wills. Through them you direct who can make decisions for you when you no longer can.
You can’t just have your attorney draw up these documents once and forget about them. They should be reviewed and updated every 3 – 5 years to adjust for changing situations in your life and changes in the laws. I recently updated my durable power of attorney (POA) to reflect changes in my family structure as well as new laws in the state of Florida affecting POAs.
We have seen situations where an older document was not accepted by a financial or health care institution because the laws had changed since the document was written. And since the affected person was no longer mentally competent, proper new documents could not be prepared and signed. This created avoidable complications and anxiety for the family at an already difficult time.
So don’t delay action in this important area of financial planning. While you can still make changes, be sure your advance directives, and those of your parents, are as you wish them to be and are in compliance with current laws. You don’t want to find out they won’t work as written when the time comes.
About the Author: Thomas L. Kirk
CPA-PFS President, Founder and WealthCoachTM
- Certified Public Accountant
- Personal Financial Specialist
- Financial Planning Association Member
- University of Florida, BSBA