Comedic actor Gene Wilder, who died last week at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer's disease, didn’t tell anyone about his illness for at least three years. That's more common than you might think.
Actor Gene Wilder is said to have wanted his fans to keep laughing over his life's work instead of being sad about his failing health. Obviously, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is nothing to laugh about but it should not mean that everything should change either. Understandably, most Alzheimer's patients hide their symptoms as long as they can. They have a legitimate concern that family and friends will immediately begin to treat them differently.
However, living in denial of your disease can pose a significant risks; not just because it can isolate you from the support of loved ones but it also can mean that you to not reach out to trusted advisers who could be helping you to take steps to protect your finances from the impact of this debilitating condition. Addressing what needs to be done is best accomplished before this or any disease progresses to the point that you can no longer participate in the plan. This is why you’ll find that I never stop harping on the documents that everyone must have so that their loved ones can act in their best interests when they cannot act on their own behalf. These legal documents can even bring a halt to elder financial exploitation.
There are steps that I encourage my clients to take as they begin the process of creating the powers of attorney they will need so that their agent can act for them for health or wealth matters. The first step seems deceptively easy. Who will serve? This person should be unwaveringly loyal in addition to being well suited to the task. Don’t name the son who has file for bankruptcy multiple times as your Attorney-in-Fact even if he is the eldest or the daughter who is so tenderhearted that she could kill a fly as your healthcare agent. The next step is to frankly discuss the decisions you want them to make on your behalf. Never bind them to unrealistic promises they may not be able to keep; it may be impossible to ‘keep you at home’. The last step is to introduce them to your attorney and financial planner so that everyone knows who is on the team and what role they will play. This is especially important as it may be any member of your team that first notices that you are starting to make poor decisions. At that point, it it’s likely time for your agents to start attending all planning meetings and doctor’s visits.
Hearing your doctor tell you he or she thinks you might have dementia is never welcome news, but this may be the opportunity to get medical assistance and to plan ahead for potential issues in the future.
Reference: Investment News (September 1, 2016) “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients”