Will I be cooperative and turn in my car keys if I’m unable to drive safely when I’m old? Or will I put up a big stink? Retirement planning is often about saving and investing, tax reduction, insurance, and passing wealth at death. But it’s wise to plan for life events including death, divorce, and dementia. Dementia is a deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior, and ability to carry out daily activities. It affects mainly older people. However, it is not a normal part of aging. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 5 to 8 percent of the worldwide population aged 60 and over is afflicted. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, representing about two-thirds of the cases.
While there is no cure for dementia, there are numerous treatments being investigated, including early diagnosis and optimizing health and well-being. Brain health has also become a bigger conversation among women. Women tend to live longer than men, comprise about two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases, and represent more than 60 percent of caregivers.
There are three ways dementia is relevant to personal planning:
Personal: Giving Up My Car Keys (or Checkbook)
Misplacing my car keys or struggling to recall a name – that’s forgetfulness. However, losing longer-term memories, language and knowledge are more serious signs of dementia that should be checked out. And being behind a 3,000-pound vehicle can be dangerous. Similar concerns happen if you have access to the checkbook or family savings with the lure of online shopping, electronic banking, and scammers.
Do you dread the conversation, “Dad, can I have your car keys?” It’s tough – you’re taking away something valuable from someone you love. However, there are ways to more effectively have this conversation. Remember to be patient but firm, demonstrate understanding and empathy, appeal to their desire to act responsibly, get an authority figure (e.g. family physician or driving test), and empower them with alternatives for how they can do things like shop for groceries.
Financial: Health Care Expenses
Most people want to stay at home and not be a burden to anyone. That’s why upfront planning is helpful. Aging is one of the biggest costs that retirees face. Some people age less gracefully than others, and they don’t always have family available to assist. Fidelity Investments estimates the costs of health care for a 65-year-old couple is about $280,000 in retirement. This includes insurance premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare. It excludes the cost of long-term care, dental care, and over-the-counter medicines. Full-time assisted living at a facility costs around $5,000 to $8,000 a month and $250 might cover 10 hours a week of in-home caregiver assistance for the impaired spouse and relief for the other spouse. The key is to plan for these expenses while we are well.
Management/Care giving: Your Loved One’s Protector
You may be the caregiver and think it’s as simple as a periodic check-in. About 60 percent of our population is caring for someone age 50 or older, and about half are assisting a parent or in-law. 6 in 10 caregivers are between ages 35 and 64, and the average age of a 50 plus caregiver is 75. Care giving involves physical and emotional demands that should be balanced with support and “downtime” for your life. They frequently involve healthcare, legal and property management issues. If professionals are doing the washing, dressing and exercising, you still need to be the advocate at the doctor’s office, and to see the medications are taken on time, review and balance the checkbook and stock the fridge. Don’t throw in the towel yet, there are organizations that offer assistance and other resources including AARP.org and the MIT AgeLab.
Life’s full of blessings and curses. It’s not always easy, yet we find shoulders to lean or stand on. Secure your (and your loved ones’) future wisely.
This article can also be viewed at the Reno Gazette Journal.