In the huge majority of cases when a family gets a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia it is a financial game changer. Prior to such a diagnosis most families are focused on accumulation of assets. After the diagnosis, because of the astronomical cost of long term heath care the focus should turn to preservation of asset.

As a member of several organizations that deals with this need and working with many families that are fighting this battle. I would offer to the caregivers and family members of those facing dementia.

First, do not delay planning. It is very easy when faced with such a sobering diagnosis to concentrate sole on the physical care of your loved one. It’s completely understandable. However, the time to plan and protect both you and your loved one is precious. Decisions that can be made today will likely be impossible in a few months. The window of time to plan and save is extremely small.

Second, surround yourself with knowledgeable trusted advisors. Do you have a brother, a sister, a daughter or a son that has wisdom about financial and legal matters? If you do ask for their help and coaching. If not, do you know of professionals that are trustworthy, knowledgeable and willing to help? If you don’t have anyone, ask around. As time passes you will need all the help you can get.

Thirdly, learn to be financially conservative. Risk that once seemed reasonable may now be far too risky for you. The expense of caring for your loved one along with a major economic downturn could put you under. Seek competent conservative financial advice. More than likely, the same financial philosophy you had prior to the diagnosis won’t be the same one you should have after the diagnosis.

Finally, don’t feel guilty about taking control of the family finances. In most families one spouse controls the finances. If the spouse that has controlled financial decisions for years is the one facing dementia it is extremely difficult for the other spouse to take that decision making power away. There are two reasons for it being so difficult. First of all the thought of handling finances is terrifying for a person that hasn’t done it before. Secondly when a spouse has taken good care of you for years the mere thought of taking that financial decision making power away is enough to send the other spouse into a state of depression and guilt for weeks.  

The kindest, most compassionate thing you can do for your loved one is to take over the financial decisions as soon as possible. If your spouse is still able, let him or her help to the degree they can, but you need to get a handle on your finances as soon as possible. You need to recruit your own team of trusted advisors to coach you, but you need to be in control. For many years your spouse has taken care of you, now it’s your turn to take care of your spouse. There should be no guilt in that! Please don’t feel guilty about doing the right things.           (Please also visit our ADAPT webpage)


4 Financial Planning Step For Alzheimer's & Dementia Families