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Elder Law Issues

1. Golden Rules of Dementia

        The NAELA Bulletin reported the five golden rules which lowers the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The report was based on a study by Analysis by Age UK which revealed that lifestyle was responsible for 76% of changes in the brain and significant avoidance of the disease could be achieved by adopting or avoiding certain habits.

Recommendations:

1. Diet - A Mediterranean diet of fish, vegetables and certain oils.
2. Don't smoke.
3. Drink alcohol in moderation - drinking alcohol in moderate levels was found to be beneficial.
4. Preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
5. Regular physical exercise of 5 hours a week is highly beneficial.

        Also, as published in the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, a study revealed that moderate daily coffee consumption may reduce Alzheimer's disease by 20%.

        So enjoy your morning coffee, take a long walk or run, try different fish recipes, have that glass of Pinot Noir and say your prayers.

        I would add one other bit of advice. My mother, although bedroom bound, continued to exercise her mind with TV game shows and math problems in balancing her checkbook and royalty income until her death at age 95. Keep an active mind - read, write, calculate, solve puzzles. Brain activity is key.


2. Senior Clients - Rely on a trusting opinion for financial decisions.

        A study of elderly people over an extended period of time has determined that even a slight cognitive change can have a bearing on financial decision-making.

        Researchers found that a mere one unit decline in cognition reduced the solvability of financial literacy questions from 70% to 60%. "This situation is significant in the ability of the senior to properly assess a financial decision," states the author of the study at the Rush University Alzheimer Disease Center. The study revealed that our cognitive functions peak at age 53 then begins to decline. The underlying problem is that our confidence level does not match the decline in ability. "Very often a person who has some cognitive impairment insists with confidence that they have never been better," states a professor of economics at Harvard who co-authored the study. He went on to conclude that because such people will not usually acknowledge these changing capacities and delegate these important decisions to other trusting individuals, "Things often end badly, financially."

        This provides an excellent time in which seniors should consider the use of their Financial Durable Powers of Attorney (DPA) and allow their Agents to assist in such decision-making. The DPAs can be easily activated for a designated child, grandchild or other family member or friend to become involved. Also, the senior may also consider resigning as Trustee of their Living or Family Trust and allowing the Successor Trustee to assume these financial decisions. In the alternative, the senior can make the Successor Trustee an immediate Co-Trustee for financial protection purposes. It may be time to update your DPA or Successor Trustees in your Trust for this purpose.

        In light of these type of studies and the escalating factor of senior financial abuse, preventative action should be seriously considered.


Jack E. Stephens, J.D., LL.M. 

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