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Preparing to live with dementia

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Posted: 7 am ET

We have friends who run a family business. She has always managed the paperwork while he did the heavy lifting. In the last few years, their son and daughter have also joined in and are slowly taking over the responsibilities, a transition that has long been part of the couple's retirement planning.

I'm sure it will all work out in the end. It's a good business with potential to grow large enough to support more than one family. But at the moment, there's a lot of angst among them because Dad appears to be in the early stages of dementia. Some days, he's still on top of his game. Other days, he's forgetful and says inappropriate things. His children do their best to keep him pointed in the right direction, but it's tough.

I thought of them when I read a report released jointly by the UK-based Alzheimer's Society and Lloyds Banking Group of London. Together these organizations have set up a program to help families protect their loved ones when one of them can no longer be depended upon to manage money.

The report offers these suggestions for someone who is facing retirement with this diagnosis, but is still capable and lucid some of the time:

  • Gather important papers, including banking information, mortgage and other homeownership documents, insurance policies, pension details and your will. Make sure someone -- your spouse, your attorney, one of your offspring -- knows where they are. Do this right away while you can still remember important things like passwords.
  • Talk with your family about how you want your finances to be managed when you are unable to look after yourself.
  • Consider seeing an attorney to set up a trust or make some other arrangement to protect your assets. Do it now while you have sufficient mental capacity to sign the paperwork.
  • Give your spouse or someone else you trust power of attorney so they can make decisions when you can't.

These are tough preparations for anyone to make, but they are especially hard on a family that is watching someone they love lose what makes them who they are.

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