Retirement strategies for the ultimate Plan B: Have to plan for cognitive impairments

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Planning for retirement means more than taking care of personal money matters. It also means planning for unforeseen potential outcomes.

One of the most neglected “Plan B” scenarios is what will happen if we are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a number expected to triple by 2050.

Owning a business, especially a family-owned one, means a beehive of accountants, advisors and lawyers; trying after the fact to deal with the many issues involved when a family member is living with dementia is difficult. Planning your strategy now will save a great deal of pain and distress in the future.

First, is there a family history of dementia? It is worth finding out. Research shows a family history of dementia, raises the risk.

Second, think seriously about how and where you would want to live. If you plan to live with family as you age, caring at home for someone living with dementia can become too great a challenge for families.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are progressive conditions. The toll on caregivers will be both physical and emotional, not just for you, but for your entire family. Eventually, it will likely be necessary to think about the right kind of care community.

There are different kinds of communities to consider. Assisted living, for example, offers burden-free living, committed caregivers and a supportive social environment. But as memory issues progress, it may be necessary to consider a higher level of care.

Dedicated memory care communities, such as Waverly Inn in Arlington Heights, offer the comforts of assisted living and are carefully designed and staffed expressly for those living with memory care issues. This dedicated approach enables a focus on best practice techniques and environments that maximize quality of life considerations.

As you prepare for the future, it is important to tour a variety of communities and have a plan of action in mind should it be needed.

Third, of great importance is gaining an understanding of what living with dementia will mean from a financial and legal perspective. Some of these steps are straightforward, such as sorting out basic legal and financial documents including your will, a living trust and advanced directives. If you are a business owner, you should develop a plan for either succession or the sale of your business in the event you are not able to oversee these important steps.

One early step is to simplify personal finances. Business owners should reduce the complexities often entailed with intertwined business and family income and assets. As we get older, most of us have multiple personal bank and investment accounts and multiple insurance providers. Now is the time to get these matters streamlined.

If you are diagnosed with dementia, it is vital for you to work with a trusted financial planner who can advise and work alongside you and your caregivers to avoid ruinous mistakes.

A final important planning consideration will be how to pay for the care you need. The sale of your business and other assets and investments may be necessary over time.

Developing a plan with experts and your business leadership team is vital. As time progresses, working with a personal financial planner and a licensed geriatric care manager is crucial to make informed decisions about your plan.

Planning for outcomes we do not want is not nearly as much fun as thinking about aging amid golf courses and lake cottages. But do not underestimate the peace of mind you will have by taking the time now to plan ahead.

• Tim O’Neil is executive director of Waverly Inn, a Koelsch memory care community in Arlington Heights.