ANALYSIS: It is a fact. We are aging and age is the single biggest risk factor of dementia. Currently, there are approximately 747,000 Canadians with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, with the number expected to increase to 1.4 million by 2031. We have an unprecedented boom in the aging demographic. As our senior population grows larger, so will the number of people affected by dementia. After age 65, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia (60-80 per cent) which is a gradually progressing brain disease that can last between three to 20 years, but often lasts from eight to 12 years.
If you are a financial professional who is dealing with a senior, it is not your role to diagnose what is causing memory loss, confusion, or mood changes. But it is important as a front line worker to be aware of the symptoms and act accordingly. At the early stage, a family member may too notice signs and symptoms that can vary greatly such as memory loss, but even this can go undetected if you are not around the senior for long periods of time. A few classic examples would be someone who once balanced their cheque book weekly, was on top of their investments or were very aware of global financial affairs. If there is ever any doubt whatsoever in terms of capacity, you cannot act on instruction from the client alone without documentation in place that applies to both family members and industry professionals.
Recognizing signs of health deterioration can be cause for great concern. And asking probing questions requires a fair amount of tact. Here’s a breakdown of what that means:
T – is for tact and diplomacy addressing the subject
A – ask probing questions starting with the basics, how are you feeling?
C - show compassion - to say this is tough for the senior involved is an understatement
T – tell them kindly it is time to see a doctor
Regardless of the outcome at the doctor’s office, this brings me to an important decision we all need to make: who will look after our affairs if we are unable to do so? And the sooner the better. By age 80-85 there is a one in 10 chance you could be impacted by some form of dementia.
On Thursday, we will discuss the pros and cons of financial power of attorneys.