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  • The Dementia Dimension

    The Dementia Dimension

    by:
    Alan McQuarrie

    “Dad, try not to use your bank card for the next week since your bank account is getting low,” Lynn told her father.  Only an hour later, he called in a panic.  “Someone is stealing from my account,” he claimed.  “The bank teller told me I don’t have any funds!” 

    This situation recently occurred in our family, and it is playing out in many other families in Canada today.  Dementia is a growing risk for the financial health of our aging family members.  The Alzheimer Society of Canada reports that one in eleven people over the age of 65 suffer from dementia.  Elderly Canadians facing debt problems have their own obstacles and dementia can make the situation much worse. While there is no known prevention or cure, there are steps you can take to reduce financial risks for the elderly. 

    '...you can be hit with unexpected costs such as increased medical expenses, paid caregivers, modifications to the home, monitoring services or nursing home care that can reach $80,000 per year.'

    At the height of your career and prime of life, you assume your health and wealth will last forever.  We watch commercials portraying retirement as a time of relaxation, sunny vacations and happiness.  By then, the home will be paid off, the kids will be gone and we will finally have the time and money to do whatever we want.  But sometimes, the reality of retirement is more complicated and we often find ourselves providing credit counselling for older Canadians because of this.  In fact, there can be sudden high costs associated with aging while your income remains stagnant or declines.  When you add a crisis such as dementia, you can be hit with unexpected costs such as increased medical expenses, paid caregivers, modifications to the home, monitoring services or nursing home care that can reach $80,000 per year.  At the same time, you may experience a faster withdrawal of savings, lack of insurance coverage or the need to return to work after retirement.

    'Laureen’s husband suffers from dementia, yet she tells me with a smile, “We are finding our way through this.  After a lifetime of challenges, we’ve gotten good at making do.”'

    When dementia strikes, there are also tremendous psychosocial costs.  These include the loss of the “golden retirement dream,” and the dawning realization of the cost of dementia for both partners or extended family.  These include a loss of autonomy, loss of a driver’s license, impairment of intimate relationships, frustration, grief and even violence.

    Laureen’s husband suffers from dementia, yet she tells me with a smile, “We are finding our way through this.  After a lifetime of challenges, we’ve gotten good at making do. We go for walks now," she says.  

    Here are some practical tips to consider if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia:

    • Consider moving close to adult children or downsizing to an apartment with access to assisted living services;
    • Pay off your debts in case you need to retire early or access your savings sooner;
    • Monitor the ability of your loved one to manage their finances; watch for unpaid or lost bills, risky or unusual investment decisions or confusion/disorganization in financial affairs;
    • Acquire the skills you need to become sole care giver; get your driver’s license, learn how to do on line banking or obtain marketable skills for a part time job;
    • Talk about the disease progression with your partner and your health care provider and plan how to deal with it;
    • Organize your bills, tax files and estate planning documents in simple, up to date files; use checklists or a calendar to track activities;

    Understanding dementia and making a financial plan can help you pass through the dementia dimension.

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