Posts Tagged "Alzheimer’s"
February 16, 2023
The Case for Signing a Power of Attorney
The best reason to set up a power of attorney for yourself or an elderly family member is to avoid a far more contentious and expensive alternative later: guardianship.
A power of attorney becomes urgent if an elderly family member is showing early signs of dementia. “You want to run, not walk, to get that done because capacity tends not to get better,” said Jonathan Williams, an attorney with the Clarity Legal Group in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
“Having good legal documents in place, if the person has the ability to execute them, can be helpful later on,” he said.
In a power of attorney, the person signing the document agrees to name an agent, usually a trusted family member or caregiver, who can take care of legal and financial matters in the event she can no longer do so herself. A power of attorney does not put any constraints on what the signer is currently able to do. She can continue to write checks, enter into real estate transactions, and make investment decisions.
During a recent webinar sponsored by the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, Williams explained some of the legal “gray areas” that can crop up around powers of attorney.
Even if someone is showing cognitive decline, a power of attorney may still be possible if an attorney “can be convinced in a conversation that the person we’re working with has an adequate understanding of the consequences of their signing it, even if that understanding is later lost or forgotten,” he said.
“Just because someone has been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment doesn’t mean they lack the legal capacity to act for themselves.” In this case, the attorney might have to consult with the person’s medical provider or review medical records before deciding what to do about a power of attorney.
But convincing an attorney in these situations isn’t a sure bet, and time is of the essence. Once someone becomes fully incapacitated, the only option may be guardianship, which Williams called a “blunt force tool with a lot of collateral effects.” …Learn More
November 4, 2021
How to Pick (or Be) a Retiree’s Financial Ally
If you need help managing your finances in old age, it’s a lot of work to find someone – and not a very pleasant task to think about.
But it’s crucial that retirees plan for this. As to when or whether you might need help, it really depends on your individual circumstance.
Attorney and researcher Naomi Karp cites a variety of studies that provide some clues to the different ways this process can play out. People who develop dementia obviously need what she calls a financial advocate. This might be a trusted friend, family member, lawyer or professional financial adviser.
But roughly a third of aging Americans who are experiencing natural cognitive decline are prone to making poor decisions about their money, she explained during a recent webinar sponsored by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) where she used to work.
Financial acumen actually peaks well before retirement – at 53! – but wisdom makes up for some of that, she said. During one’s 70s and 80s, financial literacy declines, but unfortunately confidence about one’s abilities remains high. “That’s a risky situation,” Karp said.
She and other financial experts have put together an interactive website – the Thinking Ahead Roadmap – with six steps to follow to find an advocate. Each step has tips, tools, and information to guide you through the process. An adult child or caregiver could also use this website if they feel the need to assume more responsibility for an elderly parent’s finances. …Learn More
October 28, 2021
Boomers Will Struggle with Care in Old Age
The bulk of care for the nation’s elderly is informally provided by spouses, adult children, and other family members. But if family can’t fill the need, will retirees be able to hire an in-home caregiver or pay for a nursing home in the future?
Just one in five 65-year-olds has enough family and financial resources combined to provide the support they would require in the event they develop the most severe care needs as they age, according to new research by the Center for Retirement Research. At the other extreme, more than one in three will have insufficient resources to cover even a minimal amount of care.
The study builds on previous report showing that most retirees will eventually need some care, though only one in four is predicted to have severe needs. And one in five will not need any care. The new study used data from a national survey of older Americans to determine how many total hours of care are required for three different levels of need – minimal, moderate and severe.
For example, 924 hours of family or professional care per year are used by the typical person who gets minimal assistance, such as housekeeping or cooking for a few weeks or months. But people with severe needs receive nearly 2,300 hours of care per year – with half supplied by family members. This would add up to more than 11,000 hours over a five-year period, which is the length of time the researchers used to define severe care needs.
Next, the researchers calculated how many hours of care could be covered informally by family and how many hours of formal care the retirees could purchase with their income and any financial assets. If the total hours of care they can cover with their resources fall short of what is required for a given level of need, then retirees have insufficient resources to meet that need.
Unmarried women are in the toughest position, because they lack not only a spouse to take care of them in old age but also the financial advantages enjoyed by married couples, who tend to be wealthier than single people. Over half of unmarried women will not be able to cover even minimal care needs. In contrast, only a third of couples could not provide for any future care.
There are also big disparities by race: nearly half of older Black Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics do not have the family and financial resources to provide at least minimal care, compared with only a third of whites. …Learn More
August 3, 2021
Video: Secrets to Protect Your Aging Brain
Just a few weeks after my 64th birthday, I discovered an interesting video. The timing couldn’t have been better.
The topic: maintaining brain health as we age. This video has tips, based on research, for preserving or improving memory and reducing brain inflammation, which is a culprit in cognitive decline.
“Daily lifestyle habits have a much bigger impact on your longevity than your genes,” Dr. Gary Small, former director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, explains in the video.
Did you know that Indian people have less dementia, because they eat so much turmeric in their curries? Or that a brisk 20-minute walk every day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Most people know that yoga, meditation and tai-chi reduce stress, but did you know that stress is, according to Dr. Small, “the enemy of healthy aging”?
His message is encouraging: there are things you can control to help you live a good life in old age. “It’s easier to protect a healthy brain than to repair the damage,” he said. …Learn More
April 22, 2021
Films about Dementia Help Us Understand it
“Supernova” does not have a happy ending. But that’s how stories about Alzheimer’s go, and the film, which recently began streaming, is worth watching.
It’s one of those occasional movies that come along and portray the emotional aspects of this disease with nuance. The films, by using big-name stars like Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth in “Supernova,” lift some of the stigma around dementia that can isolate its victims and their caregivers.
Dementia “is still very much a taboo topic,” said Bobbi Matchar, who, as director of the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, facilitates group discussions for people with dementia and their families. “Having movies that more accurately portray the face of dementia is really helpful.”
The newest of these films, “The Father,” is in contention for an Oscar on Sunday, as is its star, Anthony Hopkins.
Julianne Moore also won an Oscar for the lead in the 2014 film, “Still Alice” about a spirited college professor coming to terms with a failing memory. The most powerful scenes are her first realizations – forgetting a class lecture or not recognizing the center of campus, where her jog has taken her. Her denial ends when she admits to her husband (played by Alec Baldwin), “I’ve got something wrong with me.”
In “Away from Her,” Julie Christie is an older woman with Alzheimer’s who wanders the woods near her home on Lake Ontario. For her safety, she and her husband (played by Gordon Pinsent) agree she will move into a nursing home. This movie is about the disintegration of a loving marriage when one partner’s memories fade and then go dark, forcing her husband to grieve while she is still alive.
“Supernova” examines the implications of Alzheimer’s for two men who remain partners until the bitter end. On a road trip, they struggle to communicate about what Tusker’s dementia means for each of them.
Tusker (Tucci’s character) is a writer. His partner, Sam (Firth), becomes angry after discovering Tusker is hiding the extent of his dementia – he finds indecipherable scribbles in a notebook – so as not to burden Sam. …Learn More
December 3, 2020
Woman with Dementia Gets Lots of Support
In the 3 1/2 years since Brenda Lugar was diagnosed with dementia due to Lewy body disease, she has found great comfort in the people who want to make her life a little easier.
This support takes many forms. At church on Sunday mornings, Shirley always reminds Lugar of her name. When Lugar is writing an email, she knows it’s okay to text her friend, Michele, or her sister-in-law, Janet, for help finding the right word. Lugar’s husband of 43 years, Robert Lugar, recently bought her a special board for Christmas so she has a place to work on her jigsaw puzzles – and he insisted she open it early and start enjoying it now.
“Just that little thing – it meant a lot,” she said in a recent interview.
It’s common for people who are grappling with the painful reality of a dementia diagnosis to deny their condition or hide it from others. But not Brenda. Asking for the support she needs – and getting it – is “soul cleansing,” she said.
Lugar, who is 62, didn’t arrive at this place immediately. When a neurologist at Duke University Medical Center diagnosed her, her initial reaction was denial. “I said, ‘Oh you can cure me.’ He said, ‘I can’t cure you but I can slow it,’ ” she said. “When he said that, I knew that wasn’t good. I kind of shut down.”
Lewy body disease is a condition in which abnormal protein deposits in the brain can cause dementia. For Lugar, disclosing her disease gives her an odd sense of relief – it’s an explanation to others for her memory loss, her intermittent hallucinations about animals, and her uneven performance at work. “I had to tell people, because I wasn’t the same person,” she said.
She even shared her condition with a store clerk to explain her fumbling with the credit card reader. “If I tell them [and] if they have any decency in them, they’ll treat me better,” she said.
Barbara Matchar, director of the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, which Lugar participates in, said that people like Lugar “who are open about their diagnosis often feel relieved.”
Lugar was diagnosed in 2017 after she noticed frightening things happening to her at work. …Learn More
April 30, 2019
Medical Costs Slam a Minority of Seniors
As retirees’ health declines, their medical costs go up. These costs include both everyday healthcare expenses and long-term care costs.
The everyday expenses that Medicare does not cover – Part B and Part D premiums, copayments, eyeglasses, and dental care – consume about 20 percent of the incomes of households ages 75 and over. While not exactly good news, 20 percent is “perhaps manageable” for most, concluded researchers at the Center for Retirement Research in a summary of various studies in this area.
The real problem comes for the unlucky minority – about 5 percent of seniors – who spend more than half of their income out of their own pockets for healthcare.
Turning to long-term care, these services are less frequently required but can be very costly. For example, while many nursing home stays are relatively short, a lengthy stay is a potentially crippling expense. One common trigger for a long-term stay is dementia.
The retirees facing the greatest financial risk from health care expenses tend to be those who earned enough to buy a house and put money away in their employer’s retirement plan. They have more to lose if their wealth is eaten up by exorbitant medical costs. The poor, in contrast, are covered by Medicaid, which often pays for Medicare premiums and long-term care. …Learn More