This is a challenging topic to discuss as it sparks a wide range of emotions in people, from fear to denial. Though no one wants to think about eventually losing their ability to make decisions, cognitive decline is a risk that we should all be preparing for.
As financial planners, our goal is to always provide compassionate, proactive service to our clients and their families. As part of that commitment, we’ve developed the following recommendations to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the potential risks of mental decline:
Get Informed About the Signs and Symptoms of Cognitive Decline
Though it can be hard to distinguish cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s from plain old aging, experts suggest that the following symptoms warrant follow-up with a physician:
• Experiencing memory loss that makes daily tasks difficult;
• Demonstrating impulsivity and poor judgment;
• Appearing overwhelmed by making decisions or completing complex tasks;
• Forgetting important events;
• Having trouble navigating familiar environments.
If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one, bring your concerns to a physician and ask other members of the family to be on alert.
Discuss Cognitive Issues as a Family and Make Advanced Preparations
One of the best defenses against cognitive decline is frequent communication and a “family protocol” for addressing concerns. Sit down with your loved ones to talk about your feelings about aging and discuss what you would want to happen if your family became concerned about your capacity. If you have elderly relatives, ask them about their current preparations and have them designate someone to check in regularly. Older folks can be very protective of their privacy and independence, so it’s critical to be patient, compassionate, and honest with them.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
A key part of your family preparations should be to make sure that you and your spouse have current powers of attorney that will allow a trusted friend or relative to step in and make decisions for you. If you don’t currently have up-to-date legal documents, we’d be happy to recommend an experienced attorney from our network.
It’s also very important that you have set up family protocols for how and when to start taking over a relative’s financial affairs. Consolidating accounts and simplifying finances can make this process much easier.
Consider introducing your children and loved ones to a trusted advisor and provide written permission to contact a trusted person about unusual behavior. We also recommend setting up formal legal documents to allow that person to help manage finances in the event of problems down the road.
We know that mental decline is a sad, sore subject for most people; however, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourselves and your loved ones from risk.
Kathryn Palao, Certified Financial Planner®,
Vice President & Investment Advisor Representative at Hudson Financial Services, Inc. in Briarcliff Manor.
Tel: (914) 762-4760.
Investment advisor representative offering securities and advisory services through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Hudson Financial Services, Inc. 1249 Pleasantville Road, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510.