A Letter from David & Nick Hjorth


October 2018

What are we forgetting?

At DH Financial, our focus reflects our clients’ goals. First, we want to prepare you for the retirement lifestyle you have always envisioned and, second, give you confidence that your legacy will transfer the right amount of your assets to the right people at the right time in the right manner at the right cost.

Over the years of publishing our newsletter for clients, colleagues, and friends, we have frequently looked into various issues that might affect those goals in the future. In this edition and the next, we explore some health challenges, how they arise, how some can be avoided, and what you can do to plan for them financially.

Twenty years ago, as the Millennium approached, some pundits looking back at the Twentieth Century named it the century of physics. The name made sense when you consider that the 1900s began with horseless carriages and airplanes, radio and moving pictures, electric lighting and plastic—not forgetting Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—and ended with ubiquitous computers, the Word Wide Web, space probes beyond the galaxy, cell phones, and GPS.

That’s too easy—the pundits’ real motive was to name the century ahead before anyone else, and they declared it the century of biology, when the structures of life would be completely understood, erasing disease and extending lifespans. Without the hundred years of physics and the technology it spawned, we would still be guessing. Instead, we have become fluent in DNA. We have reduced once-iffy surgery to outpatient procedures, and as predicted we have demystified biochemistry and physiology to eliminate many diseases and extend life expectancy. Best of all, the acceleration of discoveries makes the recent past seem ancient.

However, the complexity of one area of biology could use a boost. Despite research to unlock the mysteries of brain functions (especially loss of function with aging), who wants life extension, if it means slowly losing sensory and cognitive functions or loss of intelligence and memory? Here is the state of the scientific understanding of aging and brains revealed in a wide search of websites.

Forgetfulness

Most researchers appear to be comfortable asserting that forgetfulness, absentmindedness, and tip-of-the-tongue hesitation can be attributed to simply a lack of focus and should be considered normal for the aging process. Most people who suffer from forgetfulness might prefer to know it was not normal and certainly their fault, but, for now, forgetfulness gets a free pass from science. You have a choice—either exert more concentration or, don’t worry because you won’t remember these problems.

Aphasia

Higher up on the mental alarm ladder is Aphasia, an acquired communication disorder. It can impair the ability to process language, making it difficult for sufferers to speak, write, read, and understand the speech of others. However, it does not impair intelligence and is not a “mental illness”. Instead, it typically affects those who have survived a stroke, although a brain tumor is another culprit. It is most common among older people, but not exclusive to them. Aphasia can also cause weakness or paralysis in the right leg or arm, a common side effect of damage to the left side of the brain, which controls the right side of the body.

Major strokes can create significant brain damage with very dramatic symptoms. However, minor strokes are seldom felt or diagnosed until neurons are already damaged. It is reasonable to assume that milder forms of aphasia may be a result from mini strokes. To lower one's risk for having any kind of stroke, doctors advocate healthy lifestyle—low salt, low cholesterol, regular exercise, managing stress, moderate amounts of alcohol, and zero cigarettes.

Dementia

Dementia is the major loss of brain function. In the early stages, the difference between dementia and forgetfulness may be missed. What makes dementia different and scary is that it is progressive, and so far irreversible. Dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease under the umbrella of dementia.

The early symptoms may appear as normal aging. Early signs include memory problems, especially with recent events, increasing confusion, reduced concentration, and personality or behavioral changes. Over time, add disorientation, language problems, weak judgment, and poor spatial skills. Right now, we are left anticipating great things for the biology century to eliminate all of these brain-based threats and connect life extension with a real upside. In the meantime, the best prevention has no surprises. Consult your doctor when symptoms arise and commit to these lifestyle choices.

- Healthy diet and lifestyle
- Less sugar, more veggies
- Physical exercise routine
- Memory exercise routine
- Social engagement
- Better sleep
- Stress management

In our next newsletter, we will conclude our examination of mental challenges with a new understanding of Alzheimer’s and advice for anyone taking on a caretaker or companion role.

However, before we end this letter we wanted to raise some important issues about planning for the financial ramifications of these health issues we have been discussing.

Loss of Income Due to Health Problems – Any one of these health issues mentioned above could limit one’s ability to work to provide for themselves or their family. Without steady income from employment, it is often difficult, or impossible, to achieve the life and financial goals a family has created. Through our planning process, we help clients prepare for a disability scenario using various income strategies and disability insurance products.

Increased Health Care & Long-Term Care Expenses – Those with health problems like Dementia and Alzheimer’s often require assistance with daily living, and the cost for this assistance can quickly reach thousands of dollars per month. It is important to have a plan in place to fund these expenses if they arise. This is also a situation that we help clients plan for by properly structuring their assets, investments, and long-term care insurance.

If you don’t have a plan for dealing with loss of income or an increase in expenses due to one of these health issues we have been discussing, we encourage you to reach out to us. For over 46 years, we have helped clients plan to achieve their financial goals in good times and in bad.

In closing, here are a few of the especially helpful websites that have information for those who would like to delve deeper into some of the health issues and financial planning strategies we have discussed.

Health Related Websites

www.webmd.org
www.mayoclinic.org
www.health.harvard.edu
www.keckmedicine.org
www.aplaceformom.com

Websites Relating to the Financial Aspect of Health Issues

www.estateplanning.com
www.aarp.org

Best Regards,

David A. Hjorth, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP® – Partner

Nicholas D. Hjorth, CPA, CLTC® – Partner

Joanna L. Denny, CLTC® - Director of Operations


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