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Care for the Long-Term Caregiver

Continuing education—thank goodness it is required for CFP® professionals because CE brings us knowledge that we likely would not have otherwise. One of the most memorable sessions I’ve attended had to do with long term care, presented by Jack Broyles. Many of you may remember his father, Coach Frank Broyles of Arkansas.  Sadly, Alzheimer’s set upon Coach Broyles’s wife for many years before finally taking her life.  During this struggle, he had so much to learn about the disease that he wrote a book titled “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: A Practical Tips Guide.” Jack uses that book as a basis for his CE lecture.  The class offered a few key takeaways.  The first involved the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia on our population—its growth in numbers and the exorbitant costs associated with caring for those with the disease. The second gave practical advice in caring for loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Regarding cost and impact, suffice it to say, the numbers are staggering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, alz.org, 5.7 million Americans struggle with Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to rise to 14 million over the next 30 years.  It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In America, unpaid caregivers (read: spouses, children, friends) totals 16.1 million individuals, providing 18.4 billion hours of care in 2017, at a cost valued at over $232 billion. The projected cost for 2018 is $277 billion, and by 2050, that number is expected to soar to $1.1 trillion. Verbatim from their video, “Early and accurate diagnosis could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs.” Our families and our country will have to figure out how to grapple with these figures. To varying degrees, many of us already have.

Here are some practical tips from the lecture:

  • Be aware of early signs of short-term memory loss, including forgetting how to do simple tasks, forgetting to pay bills, or the inability to follow instructions, such as recipes.
  • Making list can help someone in the early stages.
  • When the signs are there, find a doctor who specializes in memory loss.
  • If you’re the caregiver, daily, make time to take care of yourself.
  • Don’t attempt to reason with someone experiencing an Alzheimer’s episodic lapse. Alzheimer’s takes away one’s ability to reason, and placing that on the loved one will only lead to frustration.
  • When someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia forgets something that they were just told a within the last day, hour, or even more recently, don’t say, “remember, I just told you.” If they could remember, they would.

To illustrate how the caregiver must change her thinking in order to accommodate the effects that Alzheimer’s has on mental capacity, Jack offered this example. One day they were returning home from an errand.  When they drove up to the house, Mrs. Broyles stated that they were at the wrong house. Rather than debate the subject, the backed out of the driveway, drove around the block, and all was fine. Alzheimer’s requires us to change our mindset when we become caregivers.

Coach Broyles playbook is available on Amazon and at the Broyles Foundation website, broylesfoundation.org. Your financial advisor can help you measure the impact that Alzheimer’s or other needs for long term care could have on your retirement and help you plan accordingly. A lawyer who specializes in estate planning can help you put your legal documents in the right order so that you and your loved ones are prepared to take care of finances, pay bills, and the like. The odds are, one way or the other, we will all be affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. Planning now will help us all meet this head on. Everyone involved, the caregiver and the one receiving care, will be the better for it.

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