It's Your Money  

Dealing with dementia

If you are concerned about what to do if you or a loved one is starting to experience memory loss or a decline in decision-making capacity, here are a few suggestions:

Act quickly and act early

In most cases, individuals experience a gradual decline in their decision-making capacity over an extended period of time. If you are starting to struggle with some of the decisions you are being asked to make, reach out for help, but from trusted sources.

Communicate with your doctor, financial advisers and family members about the challenges you are experiencing so that you can get the type of help you need.

It’s important for those in your close circle to understand that you are starting to struggle, so that they know that you may need more assistance with more complex decisions.

It will also alert them to be on the lookout for financial abuse, as individuals who suffer from dementia are more likely to be the victim of scams.

Communicate your limits and your abilities

Decision-making capacity is time-and-situation specific. Although you may no longer have the ability to make complex decisions, you may still have capacity to make simple decisions.

Tell your advisers and doctors which decisions you are struggling with, and when you need help. Understand that simply asking for help in some circumstances does not mean that you will not be able to make any decisions on your own.

Review your overall financial plan

Speak to your financial planner to ensure that your plan is up to date. Explain that you are having difficulty making complex decisions.

Your adviser may recommend moving to a more conservative portfolio or consolidating your investments so you have fewer accounts or different types of property to worry about (for example, businesses or real estate).

Maximize the use of available tax credits

As your condition progresses, you may be able to claim various tax credits, including the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit and the caregiver tax credit.

Speak to your financial planner to determine which credits you may qualify for, and what you need to do in order to be eligible to claim them on your tax return.

Consider whether your wishes are properly documented

Ensure that your estate plan is up to date. In the early stages, you may still have capacity to sign documents like a will or power of attorney, but that may no longer be the case as time goes on.

Speak to a well-qualified estates lawyer about how to best protect yourself in the event you suffer a serious decline in your decision-making capacity.

Although it is always important to have these documents in place, the issue will become even more acute as your mental capacity starts to decline.

Under no circumstances would do-it-yourself kits or online documents be recommended. Understand that if you complete the documentation incorrectly, your family will not be able to correct it after you no longer have sufficient capacity to do it yourself.

Build a network to provide you with support

Reach out to associations like the Alzheimer’s Society for support. These groups have extensive experience in supporting individuals through various challenges and can help you to prepare for what may come next. Knowing that you’re not alone can help to bring peace of mind.

The onset of dementia can be a difficult experience, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Reach out to your close network and confide in your close advisors to get the support you need to live your life to the fullest.


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About the Author

Brett, designated as a chartered investment manager and certified financial planner, is the regional director (Okanagan) for IG Wealth Management.

In addition to his “day job," Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (formerly FPSC) in 2014, named as the board’s vice-chair in 2017 and took over as board chairman in 2019. 

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the FP Canada board focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns by emailing him at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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