It was at least three years after his diagnosis that comedic actor Gene Wilder revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This isn’t unusual, according to experts discussing his situation in the Investment News article, “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients.” Wilder, star of Blazing Saddles, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and many other classic comedies, died at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He wanted to leave his audiences laughing, rather than being sad that he was suffering from this dreaded disease.
Most Alzheimer's patients hide their symptoms as long as they can because they fear losing control of their lives if family or friends are under the impression they can’t take care of things on their own. However, a bit of planning ahead can help minimize the feeling and equip loved ones to handle any potential issues down the road.
The first thing to recognize is that cognitive impairment is a significant risk. Financial advisors and estate and elder law attorneys should take steps to protect clients' finances from the impact of debilitating conditions like Alzheimer's. This is best accomplished before they notice any changes in the individual’s behavior. With dementia and Alzheimer's so common in the elderly, criminals frequently target older individuals because they can more easily be swayed into releasing money or disclosing personal information.
The first thing elder law attorneys will do is have their clients execute a legal document listing family members or friends the attorney can contact to discuss private information if he or she believes the client is starting to have cognitive problems. Clients may need some time to consider this difficult issue. However, if they refuse to provide this information, financial planners will often require them to sign a different document releasing the adviser from liability if the client is harmed because of his or her cognitive decline.
Get the complete legal picture from an experienced elder law attorney who may be able to work with your financial adviser and come up with alternative options everyone can be comfortable with. Advisers may also have a checklist to complete each year about their clients to monitor changes and document them over time. When they see “red flags,” such as a client with memory loss or difficulty understanding the consequences of decisions, advisers may ask that a trusted contact start attending planning meetings.
This is one of the reasons we at Family Estate Planning Law Group advocate so strongly for a Family Care Meeting. These meetings allow clients to outline their estate plans to loved ones, heirs and fiduciaries in collaboration with their financial and estate planning professionals. Meetings such as this allow your loved ones to meet and get familiar with your professional team, giving everyone the opportunity to work together on your behalf should a crisis—especially an Alzheimer’s diagnosis—occur.
There is no way to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s pleasant. But once this has occurred, the family needs to address the medical, legal and financial matters that will be faced in the future. An elder law attorney with experience in this area will be able to help. For more information, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: Investment News (September 1, 2016) “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients”