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 common, reports Investment News in “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients.”
The star of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and many other successful comedies is said to have wanted his fans to keep laughing over his life's work instead of being sad about his failing health.
Most Alzheimer's patients will hide their symptoms as long as they can because they'll lose control of their lives if their family or friends are under the impression they can’t take care of things on their own.
The first thing to recognize is that cognitive impairment is a significant risk. Financial advisers and elder law attorneys should take steps to protect these 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 that lists the family members or friends whom 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 that releases the adviser from liability if the client is harmed because of his or her cognitive decline.
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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,” like a client with memory loss or difficulty understanding the consequences of decisions, advisers may ask that a trusted contact start attending planning meetings.
Hearing a professional 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.
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Reference: Investment News (September 1, 2016) “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients”
Image Credit: Gene Wilder at a book signing for My French Whore. 11 May 2007. Caroline Bonarde Ucci [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons