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Jul 15, 2021 | Family Wealth Advising, Q&A

What steps should you take if you’re concerned about cognitive impairment for yourself or a loved one?

Cognitive impairment is a growing reality as we age. It can be challenging to either experience firsthand or watch a loved one suffer from, even if it is mild. Unfortunately, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website, approximately 12-18% of people age 60+ are living with mild cognitive impairment. In addition, more than 6 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s. Any form of cognitive impairment can put you or your loved one at risk for a financial mishap or scam. This could undo years of careful saving, investments, and planning.

Health issues involving cognitive impairment can be scary and difficult to face or discuss. Those who have dementia will often try to mask the symptoms for fear of possibly losing some of their independence or due to a perceived stigma. With this said, it is critically important to identify any cognitive issues as soon as possible. Once identified, you can develop a game plan to address both financial and nonfinancial considerations. Getting an official diagnosis from a neurologist, neuropsychologist, or geriatrician can aid in the process. As a part of the diagnosis, a doctor may administor tests such as the Min-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Short Test of Mental Status, or the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.


Even if everything checks out with a specialist, there are still steps you can take to prevent potential mishaps..


Since 2018, brokerage firms have been required to ask clients if they would like to provide the name of a trusted contact person. Pleae note, you are not required to provide a name. A trusted contact is someone you authorize your brokerage firm to contact in limited circumstances (i.e. if they cannot reach you). They can also help the brokerage firm respond to possible financial exploitation or fraud in your account(s). Naming someone does not give that person any authority to act on your behalf, execute transactions, or engage in activity in your account; but having having a trusted contact can provide a helpful safeguard.


An Omega file can help organize information surrounding your affairs and desires in one place. This can help your family should you become ill or pass away. The Omega file is not a legal document itself, but it identifies where important papers are located. This information may include health care directives, information about business affairs, passwords, and anything else your loved ones should be aware of in the event they need to step in. Once you create an Omega file, ensure you leave it in an accessible place known to your executor and/or trusted family member(s). We would recommend against a safe deposit box. These are sealed at death, and therefore difficult to immediately access.


If you are concerned about your financial situation or that of a loved one, there are additional steps you can take. These include adding an individual to all financial accounts and bills to monitor finances. You can also assign a Power of Attorney to allow a trusted individual the right to make financial decisions. Our Advisors are able to provide tips on approaching this sensitive topic and applicable steps to take. If you have additional questions, please reach out to one of our advisors.

Author: Peter Braden, CFP® | Wealth Management Advisor
Written: July 15, 2021