Does Your Caregiver Have Sticky Fingers?

You need someone to help you as you age., or perhaps you have an ailing parent that needs some help around their home.  You don’t want them to go into a nursing home, and your solution is to bring in an aide to help out.  Caring.com recently published an article  entitled “5 Signs a Caregiver is Stealing From You” that offers some early warning signs to watch out for.

It’s frightening to be so vulnerable as we get older. The solution is to be alert, ensure family members visit often and unexpectedly and beware of these potential pitfalls:

Receipts that don’t add up,  frequent cell phone use on the job, becoming emotionally involved with or dependent upon the caregiver, bids for sympathy, and missing work on Mondays are some of the most important early warning signs to watch for.

Mad Men Tackles Dementia

As an avid fan of Mad Men, and an elder law attorney, the way the show dealt with one of the character’s senility brought the show right into the present.
Back in the ‘60s, so many women were stay at home mothers. When a parent, or an -in-law started needing more help, it was these wives and mothers who were expected to take care of the parent who needed assistance.
The show didn’t take the easy route. The son, Pete, and his wife had recently split up, a fact the son neglected to tell the rest of his family. Pete, as typical of his character, is dismissive of his mother and tries to pawn her off on his brother, but they knew and insisted he share the responsibility.
So, how is Pete going to handle this? I hope the show continues to deal with it— and I suspect they will. One of the more beloved characters, the ad agencies’ founder, gave a speech at the beginning of the episode that was unfocused—the partner/office manager merely patted him on the back and complimented him.

Elder Law: It’s about people, not just money.

Sometimes when attorneys talk about elder law and Medicaid planning, they get caught up in the technical details of the various rules and strategies: Medicaid planning trusts; the look-back period, spend-down plans, the half-a-loaf strategy, the penalty period, and on and on. It’s easy to forget sometimes that we’re talking about human beings — people who are impaired but who are still deeply loved by others. A video like this reminds us:

It’s Not Monopoly Money, It’s Your Hard Earned Wealth

A recent article in Forbes highlights a study that half of all people lose all their wealth after just 6 months in a nursing home.

I’m going to repeat that:  Half of all residents in a nursing home lose ALL their wealth, including their home equity, after just 6 months in a nursing home.

As a middle class Long Island resident, that is one of the most frightening statistics I have heard in a long time.  The people I know– my friends, clients and elderly neighbors, worked hard and saved hard all their lives to accumulate what they have.  They gave up vacations, manicures and Starbucks in order to save money they thought they might need when they retired.  To think it could all be wiped out in six months is a devastating thought.

We know that the cost of a nursing home is approximately $12,000- $15,000 each month on Long Island.  Many of the people surveyed had less wealth than average people their age before they entered the nursing home.  That can easily be explained in two ways.  Before people enter nursing homes, they will often spend much of their money on care–medication, doctors, home health care aides.  Even a few hours per day of hiring an aide can quickly wipe out savings.

Or it can be explained by good planning.  Perhaps the people in the study had ensured that much of their hard earned assets were safe from the bite of those huge monthly nursing home bills.  Planning for long term care is essential and must be done prior to you or your spouse becoming ill.

Does Size Matter?

Does the size of your brain predict the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease?  One study released December 2011 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, finds that smaller brain size has a high correlation with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.    Technically, the researchers found that the thickness of regions of the cortex known to be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.  The study was conducted among people in their mid-seventies who have not shown signs of memory loss.

 

Predicting who may be at a higher risk for the disease is important, as early detection may be an important step to slowing down or stopping the progression of memory loss and cognitive function.

 

Another marker, according to the press release, is abnormal levels of protein in cerebrospinal fluid.  For more information on this study, click here.

 

 

Alzheimer’s or a Vitamin Deficiency?

According to an article in today’s New York Times by health writer Jane Brody, below normal levels of B-12 can sometimes mimic the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

According to Brody, Vitamin B-12 is absorbed less readily as we age, and a deficiency can cause symptoms of memory loss and confusion–the same symptoms as an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

 

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementing people without deficiencies of B-12 did not improve cognitive impairment with normal levels of the vitamin, but did improve cognition among women with a low intake of B vitamins.

 

Although I’m not a doctor, it seems to me that testing for Vitamin B-12 deficiency in older adults should be a routine procedure.

The Real Reason You Should Have Paid Attention in High School French

 

In a recent interview in the New York Times Science Section, cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystock was interviewed about recent studies that have found that being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by an average of five to six years.

Unfortunately, the occasional use of a second language does not qualify for bilingualism.  The second language must be used regularly in your every day life.

The study of 211 diagnosed Alzheimer’s sufferers found that the onset of symptoms in bilingual patients occurred more than 5 years after those monolingual patients, and were diagnosed 5 years later.  Interestingly, the monolingual patients were more educated.

Too Late to Learn a Second Language?

 

It is probably too late for most of us reading this to learn to speak a second language fluently enough to reap the benefits of this study.  However, it has been well documented that those adults who remain socially, mentally and physically active are better protected against the onset of dementia.

So, you might say that a bit of je ne sais quoi can delay non compos mentis.