Help Make a Difference
Sometimes my columns are an enjoyable, lighthearted look at a financial subject. Today though, the topic is serious, and I hope I inspire you to think and act. Maybe you’ve met a person who is in the midst of a difficult journey in life, and you say to yourself, “There but for the grace of God go I.” A few weeks ago, I had Greg O’Brien as a guest on my radio program. Greg has more than 35 years’ experience as a writer, editor, investigative reporter, and publisher – and Greg has Alzheimer’s disease.
Greg was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2009 at age 59. We talked about his book, On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, and we discussed his life since his diagnosis. Greg struggles with his short-term memory, has difficulty recognizing people, can fly into a rage, lose balance, hallucinate, and can have difficulty processing loud noises. He tries not to expose these challenges to the people close to him, but I’m sure hiding these symptoms must be exhausting. Greg also shared the profound effect the disease can have on a person’s finances. Care-giving can be a huge expense. The cost of assisted living can easily reach $4,000/month; nursing homes and memory care facilities could be 50 to 100% more than that! Financial devastation in the face of this dreaded disease is not uncommon.
What can you do if you suspect you or a spouse may be having memory problems? Learn the signs and symptoms. Long-Term Care insurance may not be an option once a diagnosis has been made. Meet with an attorney and make sure your legal affairs are in order and that estate planning is in place. (I serve as a successor trustee and power of attorney for some of my clients, so if they become incapacitated, I can make sure their bills are paid and their financial wishes are carried out.) The key, however, is to act now.
“As a society and in Congress, we haven’t taken this disease seriously enough as we do cancer and heart disease,” Greg stated. More needs to be done for the 5 million people in the U.S. who have the disease. So, if you have been touched by Alzheimer’s, I ask you to get involved. Write your representatives to encourage more funding for research; participate in an Alzheimer’s Walk, or make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, you can visit alzheimers.gov. If we all pitch in, we can help find a cure for people like Greg who are fighting a brave battle against this mind-robbing disease.