From a presentation given by attorney Tim Nay M.S.W., J.D at the NAPFA West Region Conference.

While Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of diminished capacity, there are over 90 other medical conditions that can present similar symptoms with many of them treatable. Unfortunately, diagnosing these other conditions requires an extensive battery of tests that are often beyond the expertise of a primary care physician.

Tim told a heartbreaking story about a wife who was starting to deteriorate and was diagnosed with Alzheimers by her primary care physician. Her husband promised that he would not put her into a nursing home. As her abilities continued to decline, the caretaking stress on the husband was leading to his physical decline as well. Finally, the children stepped in and forced him to put their mother in a nursing home for his own health. The day after she was admitted he shot himself.

Soon after the mother was admitted, she was given a thorough battery of tests to determine the cause of her diminished capacity. It was discovered that it was from a treatable cause (i.e., not Alzheimers). With treatment, her mental faculties were fully restored and her first question was “where is my husband?”.

The lesson for professional planners is — if you have a client who has been labeled as having Alzheimers it is worth your while to investigate how that label came to be assigned and to suggest further investigation if sufficient diagnostic testing has not occurred.