Oxygen and Dementia

Over the last 10 to 15 years, there seems to have been a real burst of products to swallow and games to play to try and strengthen our memory skills. Do they work? The Institute of Medicine has cautioned consumers to watch out for phony products or poorly tested products that claim to “prevent, slow, or reverse the effects of cognitive aging.”

What about exercise? Brain exercise is one thing, but what about overall body exercise? Several studies have shown that the more you exercise, the more you reduce the risk of developing dementia. Some studies suggest that high levels of exercise might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30 to 40%. That’s significant.

Games, friendly conversations, food choices, and purposeful living all seem to help age-proof your brain, but physical exercise leads them all as far as effectiveness. And for many people, starting a mild exercise routine isn’t all that difficult. A simple daily walk can make a big difference. Check with your doctor and try getting more exercise.

Have you ever known an elder person who had a serious mental decline shortly after an injury that limited their mobility? I’ve seen this several times. In some cases there is no sign of dementia before the injury, and in other cases there is mild dementia, but the individual is coping well. Then, following the loss of mobility, there is a significant loss of mental ability.

I deal with dementia issues weekly whether it be for a client, the client’s spouse, or the client’s parent. It’s a complicated subject.

Aging well involves taking care of yourself. What about your legal documents? Do you have the right documents in place to allow others to care for you if the need arises? Make sure that you have an estate plan, and make sure that it’s up to date.

When Are You Planning Your Next Stroke?

I recently got a call from a daughter telling me her father just had a major stroke. Why didn’t they get his documents in place before the stroke? Well, even though he’s in his 80s and had already experienced two minor strokes, they “just figured that he’d probably be okay.” Really? For how long? Forever?

A stroke is generally considered to be a “sudden disabling attack” or loss of consciousness caused by an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. It’s a sudden event. A stroke is a medical emergency. It’s essentially a “brain attack.” Estate planning needs to be done before the stroke. There might not be a chance to do it after the stroke.

About 75% of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, but a stroke can happen at any age. I know a local man who recently died about two weeks after having a stroke, and he was only in his late 40s. It happens.

The chances of having a stroke can be greatly reduced by healthy living. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) gives stroke prevention guidelines for diet, weight, and physical activity, and you should read them and take them to heart. The guidelines for reducing the chances of a stroke are similar to other guidelines for better health. You should know them and keep them in mind.

A man came to meet with me recently to discuss the estate plan that was prepared for him and his wife a few years back. His wife is now in the memory care unit at an assisted living facility and she is doing well there despite being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The gentleman provides a lot of the companionship and care for his wife, and he also manages all of the family finances. He recently reviewed his old estate plan and was fairly certain that it wasn’t right for them, but he figured that he could manage things okay the way they were ­­— until he had a minor stroke himself! He’s lucky that it wasn’t a major stroke, but it woke him up to the fact that if something happens to him and he can’t manage their affairs and help take care of his wife, they will both suffer tremendously, and so will their children and grandchildren.

Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, said it simply: “Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.” I apply this idea to estate planning because getting a proper estate plan put into place now to protect yourself, your spouse, and your heirs is easy. Doing anything after a stroke can be difficult or impossible, and trying to navigate through the legal system without the proper legal authority can be daunting or impossible. The lack of proper decisions today can mean that certain options are closed to you and your family in the future. Get it done. Make a plan to protect yourself and your family. Make sure that you have the right estate planning documents in place for when they might be needed.

You can take steps to help prevent a stroke, but you can’t time when a debilitating stroke might occur. Work on improving your health to prevent a stroke, and get the proper estate planning documents in place while you’re still able to do so.

How High Does Your Number Need To Go?

What’s your number? What about your mother? What about your father?

Here, I’m asking how much you’re willing to be scammed out of, or willing to have an elder parent scammed out of, before you take some protective action? Do you have the legal documentation in place for someone else to take over?

Here are a few recent stories reported by elder law attorneys:

1. The scammers told the woman that they were officers investigating her bank for misappropriating her funds, and they needed her assistance to execute a sting operation. They told her that she would have all of her funds returned to her after the sting was completed. After transferring nearly all of her liquid assets, she sold most of her stocks and transferred that money too. She lost over $1,000,000 and now owes the IRS over $200,000 for capital gains tax on the sale of the stock.

2. An elderly client’s spouse has fallen prey to the Jamaican lottery scam and refuses to disengage. The one is convinced that it’s real, and keeps going around the other to send more and more money to the scammers in Jamaica.

3. A client’s parents lost $350,000 to a scam about the Canadian lottery, another $450,000 to the overseas family of a former caregiver, and another $200,000 as an “investment” to a neighbor with a failing business.

So, I ask again — How much money are you willing to lose before someone steps in to stop the fraud? Have you had open discussions on this with family or friends? It isn’t always easy, but those discussions, accompanied by the right legal documents, can help to prevent someone from getting scammed out of thousands of dollars.

Elder financial abuse is on the rise.

Make sure that there’s a system in place for a trusted person to be checking on the accounts of elders on a regular basis. Yes, that means the elder gives up a bit of their privacy and freedom, but in many cases it’s well worth it.