More than half a million Canadians – and their families – are currently living with dementia. About 25,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. By 2031, the number of Canadians suffering from this affliction is expected to increase to 937,000.
It’s likely you know someone with dementia, or who is starting to show signs of the syndrome. 56% of Canadians are concerned about being affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Of greatest concern is their fear of being a burden to others, losing their independence and the inability to recognize family or friends.
Dementia is most likely to appear after the age of 65, but it does strike a small percentage of people earlier in life. In either case, health costs can rise steeply. When planning your retirement and financial future, health care costs are often the largest unknown.
- What happens if you need care?
- Who will look after you?
- What will it cost to have in-home care or to move into a care home?
Health care issues after age 65 – and the financial choices/repercussions – are topics that we can’t possibly cover in a single article. This is the first in a series of blogs that touch on various aspects of health care planning. As always, our goal is to provide peace of mind by highlighting available options for consideration when someone close to you has a major health issue.
What is dementia?
Disorders affecting the brain cause dementia. It is progressive: the symptoms will worsen as more brain cells become damaged. Many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, can cause dementia. On the bright side, some treatable conditions can produce symptoms similar to dementia, so getting an immediate medical assessment is important.
What are the early signs of dementia?
- Memory loss
- Frequently losing things
- Repeated questions
- Poor judgment
- Impaired thinking
- Communication difficulties
- Personality changes
For more information on dementia and Alzheimer’s, two excellent sources are:
Legal documents to have in place BEFORE dementia is diagnosed:
- Will – we all know the importance of this key estate document, and should also remember that lawyers and notaries cannot sign legal documents for clients who are not “of sound mind”. Creating a will is not an option once an individual has been diagnosed with dementia.
- Power of Attorney – this gives someone the legal right to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of another person.
- Enduring Power of Attorney – this ensures that the powers granted will continue even if the grantor becomes mentally incompetent. Most POAs are written this way.
- Representation Agreement (RA) – is the ONLY legal document in BC to authorize one or more people that are trusted to be someone’s representative, to help them manage their personal affairs and, if necessary, to make decisions on their behalf in case of illness, injury or disability. An RA7 is more limited and an RA9 gives greater authority.
- Advanced Directives are a way of making sure that your wishes and values are respected in important decisions (especially health care decisions) made for you when you are no longer able to make such decisions yourself. They must be readily interpretable into Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST). They do no need to be prepared by a lawyer but must meet certain guidelines. They have replaced “Living wills” which were never legal in BC.
- Other documents for end-of-life decisions/wishes – we will explore this more in our upcoming “Making Tough Decisions” post. For example, if you no longer recognize family or friends, would you want to be resuscitated if you had a heart attack? When you haven’t made your wishes clear in writing, our Canadian system gives doctors no choice but to resuscitate you.
- The Challenge of Being a Caregiver
- The Financial Impact of Additional Help
- Making Tough Decisions about Dementia