Helping lead in the most difficult circumstances, when faced with Alzheimer’s toll

Imagine this: Every day when you arrive at work, you realize nearly 6 million Americans are affected by a certain illness. The number is expected to grow to 14 million by the year 2050. Two-thirds of those affected are women; people of Hispanic or African descent are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have it. The vital signs of most patients are strong, but the vibrant individuals you know begin to slip away.

There is no known cure, despite many years of effort and billions of research dollars spent. Most clinical information is gathered postmortem. You can observe the symptoms but are helpless to do anything about it. You and your colleagues spend hundreds of hours per year hitting Idaho roads, telling a story of hope, tempered by a stark reality.

That’s what it’s like to work for the Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Idaho Chapter. The Alzheimer’s Association has a singular vision – a world without Alzheimer’s disease. Since 1980, this organization has worked tirelessly in the areas of caregiving, research and support. It is driven forward by the hope that one day prevention and treatment of dementia and diseases of the brain will be realized. Look no further than our local chapter to find a Valley leader and shaper.

Kimberly Jaques, a certified financial planner, and I had the honor of presenting our ideas to a gathering of about 100 people at Saint Alphonsus in late April to discuss financial and legal planning for families affected by Alzheimer’s. Elder law attorney David Wilson of the Ahrens-DeAngeli Law Group joined us.

Together, we explored ways to reduce emotional stress and provide planning ideas for caregivers affected by this dreaded disease. Data clearly show that early diagnosis and treatment can drastically reduce the cost of care. Assembling your all-star team of qualified professionals in health care, financial and legal planning alleviates some of the stress, and frees up more time to care for your loved one.

Caregivers, who mostly are friends, family members and volunteers, make up the majority of those willing to help. Careful planning can alleviate some of the financial and emotional stress suffered by the caregiver. The financial wherewithal to pay for treatment is critical.

Early diagnosis enables individuals to prepare legal, financial and end-of-life plans while they are cognitively able to make decisions and share their wishes with loved ones. If you saw the “60 Minutes” segment on this disease that aired April 22, you can see firsthand the progression of Alzheimer’s, and the emotional and financial toll on the caregiver.

Leadership is difficult. Running a successful nonprofit corporation is challenging. Waiting for prevention and cure is exhausting. Informing, educating and helping those afflicted in the meantime is a true measure of leadership. We tip our hats to the Alzheimer’s Association: Greater Idaho Chapter.

Mark Daly is an investment management analyst and partner in the Perpetua Group.