• June 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    My husband Jim and I are 45 and new empty nesters. Jim’s mother died of Alzheimer’s at 64 after showing noticeable symptoms for 8 years, and early symptoms before that that were hidden/explained away.

    Jim, a teacher, has been experiencing problems with language (not remembering familiar names, being unable to recall common words) for about 3 years. He has learned to compensate for it and hide it, but still has issues with it most every day.

    I’m concerned Jim may be on his way to early onset disease himself. He’s extremely healthy physically. If he does get it I will still need to work, so some type of outside care would definitely be necessary. He has a healthy retirement account, and mine is doing OK, but outside of that the only real asset we have is the house.

    For a long time we have talked about selling the house. Now I’m thinking if we do sell, we should buy another to keep at least one asset from being potentially eaten up by the cost of care. He is very resistant to this, and wants to be free of home maintenance, and to use any profits we might get to travel.

    I want him to enjoy any time he/we have remaining, and don’t want to assume he will get it, but I don’t want to be left penniless in my early 60s either. Any suggestions?

  • June 11, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Kelly—I can’t blame you for being concerned over Jim’s anomia (trouble finding words). There is a form of dementia called primary progressive aphasia. It begins gradually. Individuals have increasing difficulty naming objects or may misuse word endings, verb tenses, conjunctions and pronouns. .Eventually their ability to understand written or spoken language is severely compromised. Here is a link to a Mayo Clinic article that gives additional information: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/primary-progressive-aphasia/DS00750

    The American Speech Language Hearing Association is another site that you might find informative. Put the words aphasia & apraxia in the search function of their home page at: http://www.asha.org/default.htm

    Some language difficulties are the result of a stroke and may not necessarily get worse. An MRI could help you get a better idea of what you are up against. With the history of A/D in Jim’s family, getting him consent to having one might be difficult.

    Long term care insurance is one way that you may stave off future financial difficulties. They are expensive…Many do not cover Alzheimer’s. If you decide to go that route, it might be a good idea to get it in place before undergoing a whole lot of tests. No one will write a policy after a dementia diagnosis is made and many might be skittish if they see a potential problem. Make certain that you read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. .

    As far as your housing is concerned…I’m not a tax lawyer or elder care attorney (any more than I am medically trained) but I think that there may be several advantages to either keeping your present home or selling and purchasing a smaller single family home or at least a condominium. Promising to apply some of the profits from the sale of your current home toward hiring help with maintenance could be a spoon full of sugar to help the suggestion be accepted.

  • June 23, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Dear Kelly,

    I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s troubles and I hope it is not early onset of Alzheimer’s. But you do have to be prepared financially. Statistics show that the average person runs out of their ability to pay privately for care in just 26 weeks. That means that unless you have a good long term care insurance policy, you would need to seek public sources such as Medicaid.

    From a Medicaid standpoint, the house is almost always a protected (exempt ) asset, typically up to about $500,000 in equity. But, if you did sell the house and cash in, you are both still young and have time to plan what to do with the money to protect it if your husband ever needs Medicaid.

    I have a short, free book that describes some more of this in greater detail. You can find it at

    I wish you well and I hope this helps!