It was at least three years after his diagnosis that comedic actor Gene Wilder revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This is not unusual, according to experts discussing his situation in the Investment News article, “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients.” Wilder, star of Blazing Saddles, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and many other classic comedies, died at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He wanted to leave his audiences laughing, rather than being sad that he was suffering from this dreaded disease.
Most Alzheimer's patients will hide their symptoms as long as they can because they fear losing control of their lives if family or friends are under the impression they can’t take care of things on their own.
The first thing to recognize is that cognitive impairment is a significant risk. Financial advisers and elder law attorneys should take steps to protect these clients' finances from the impact of debilitating conditions like Alzheimer's. This is best accomplished before they notice any changes in the individual’s behavior. With dementia and Alzheimer's so common in the elderly, criminals frequently target older individuals because they can more easily be swayed into releasing money or disclosing personal information.
The first thing elder law attorneys will do is have their clients execute a legal document that lists the family members or friends whom the attorney can contact to discuss private information if he or she believes the client is starting to have cognitive problems. Clients may need some time to consider this difficult issue. However, if they refuse to provide this information, financial planners will often require them to sign a different document that releases the adviser from liability if the client is harmed because of his or her cognitive decline.
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Advisers may also have a checklist to complete each year about their clients to monitor changes and document them over time. When they see “red flags,” like a client with memory loss or difficulty understanding the consequences of decisions, advisers may ask that a trusted contact start attending planning meetings.
There is no way to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s pleasant. But once this has occurred, the family needs to address the medical, legal and financial matters that will be faced in the future. An elder law attorney with experience in this area will be able to help.
Reference: Investment News (September 1, 2016) “Hiding Alzheimer's, like Gene Wilder did, is natural, so prepare for it with all clients”