Consequences of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Have Significant Legal and Financial Impact

Most people hope and pray they will never suffer from memory problems when they age. Conditions like Alzheimer's become more likely as you age. Be sure you have essential documents in place and Long-Term Care Insurance before problems start.

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Consequences of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Have Significant Legal and Financial Impact
3 Min Read May 18th, 2018 Updated:January 22nd, 2023

Most people hope and pray they will never suffer from memory problems when they age. Conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia become common with aging. Longevity is impacting all of us. What happens if you or a loved one starts to experience a memory decline?

Have you put in place any plan if memory loss impacts you? Perhaps you don't think it will ever happen to you. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of people who begin to exhibit some memory decline. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 47 million people worldwide have dementia. This number is expected to triple by the year 2050.

People Often Ignore Early Signs

Many people ignore some of the first signs of memory loss. Someone may have difficulty focusing and remembering new information, find it increasingly difficult to make decisions, experience hardship with complex tasks, and decreased morale or motivation. Other people may experience changes in their sleeping patterns, changes in behavior, and difficulty with daily routines.

Often people will tell themselves it is stress at home or work causing the problem. Typically first notice memory problems before they seek help from a doctor, usually between 45 and 64 years old. However, memory changes can be seen in younger individuals as well.

Memory issues might be a precursor to dementia. Short-term memory issues are frequently subtle, such as forgetting where one put an item or having trouble recalling why one visited a particular room.

Dementia is Symptom

A person can usually easily recall things that happened years ago but forget what they had for breakfast. Richard J. Caselli, M.D., is a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. He says that dementia is not the name of a disease; it's really just a description of a set of symptoms. Alzheimer's is a specific disease that is just one cause of dementia. Other degenerative diseases cause dementia, for example, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, vascular problems, and so on. For someone younger, there could be a genetic cause.

When we see somebody with early-onset dementia, say at age 45 or so, we have to be concerned about a genetic cause known as a dominantly inherited mutation, or gene change. Just one copy of a dominantly inherited gene change from either parent will cause early-onset Alzheimer's.

No matter your age or the reason, dealing with the consequences of dementia becomes a crisis if you don't make decisions well before you experience symptoms. Too many ignore aging problems, be it dementia or any other need for long-term health care.

Perhaps you think your family will be able to "handle it." Chances are no. The fact is long-term care happens to many of us as we age. Caregiving is hard on family members, and paid care drains assets. Yet, what plans do you have for the legal and financial consequences of cognitive impairment?

Get Documents in Order. Consider Cost of Long-Term Care

It is always best to plan well in advance when you have the most options. Usually, this means before your retirement. These are three areas many experts suggest you consider:

  1. Long-Term Care Insurance – These affordable policies will pay for quality care at home or in a facility. Caution: you must health qualify to get a plan. This means you can't wait until you have dementia to get a policy. It is best to obtain coverage in your 40s or 50s, but you still can get coverage older if you have good health – but premiums will be higher.

  2. Advance Directives for Health – These documents will communicate your healthcare wishes when you can no longer speak for yourself.

  3. Advance Directives for Finances – These documents will communicate your estate plans.

If you, or a loved one, is in the early stage of dementia, you will have time to put some advance directives in place. Having advance directives, like a power of attorney and living wills, is vital to ensure that your wishes and decisions are honored if you become incapable of making them yourself. 

These documents provide information about your wishes and grant permission to a trusted family member, friend, or professional to make decisions on your behalf. This ensures that important life decisions and financial matters are taken care of if you can no longer do so yourself.

Planning for the cost of long-term health care must also be done in advance. If you have savings, be sure to act before you retire to safeguard your retirement funds and reduce the burdens that come with extended care.

Long-Term Care Insuranceincluding partnership policies, can help safeguard your 401(k) and other savings while providing guaranteed tax-free funds to pay for quality care in the desired setting. 

ALSO READ: Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis


Overview of Medical Documents

Medical Document

                                                    How It Is Used

Living Will

Describes and instructs how the person wants end-of-life health care managed

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Gives a designated person the authority to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the person with Alzheimer's

Do Not Resuscitate Order

Instructs healthcare professionals not to perform CPR in case of stopped heart or stopped breathing


Overview of Legal and Financial Documents

Legal/Financial Document

How It Is Used


Indicates how a person's assets and estate will be distributed among beneficiaries after his/her death

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

Gives a designated person the authority to make legal/financial decisions on behalf of the person with Alzheimer's

Living Trust

Gives a designated person (trustee) the authority to hold and distribute property and funds for the person with Alzheimer's

When to Act

There are several options for Long-Term Care Insurance if you have relatively good health to qualify for coverage. 

Types Of Long-Term Care Insurance Policies - Which Is Best For You

Seek the help of a Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to assist you. Generally, specialists will work with multiple top insurance companies to help find you the best coverage at the lowest cost based on your age, health, and other factors. They will be able to provide you with accurate quotes from all the available companies.

The cost of long-term care varies depending on where you live. This information will be necessary for planning.

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your Location

The time for planning is before you get older and experience health issues. Important documents should be done without delay. Most people get Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s. 

Taking action does not mean you think you will have a problem as you age. It does mean that you understand the realities of aging and love your family enough to plan to avoid a crisis later.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

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