This is going to be a rather odd intro, but I promise I'm going somewhere with this little story...
When I was in the hospital after my jaw surgeries, I was moved to a private room where I finally got some sleep. Jerry was there next to the bed, watching TV, and I fell into a deep sleep. About an hour later, I woke up, and I knew NOTHING about what was going on. I didn't know where I was, why I was there, who Jerry was, or even who I was.
|Pre-surgery. This was me trying to smile.|
It was the scariest moment of my life, and that is not an exaggeration. I have many fears, but the fear of losing my memory again is at the top of the list.
The memory loss only lasted about 30 seconds, but it was terrifying enough to have a lasting effect on me. It made me think about my grandmother (my mom's mom, who we called Gobby).
Gobby developed Alzheimer's disease when I was a teenager, and at the time, I didn't know much (if anything) about it. All I knew was that it caused her to call me "Sue" (my mom's name) and that she used to ask when "D" (her husband, who we referred to as Pippi) was coming home (he'd passed away decades earlier).
|Gobby and me on my 14th birthday|
Until I had that brief amnesia in the hospital, it never occurred to me that Gobby must have been scared like that sometimes when she was very confused. As a teenager, I used to get kind of annoyed that she always asked the same questions over and over; now, I feel terrible for not being more sympathetic. She was scared, and she wanted to know what was going on.
Gobby lived with the disease for several years. Pippi had died when Gobby was just 55, but he had a good life insurance policy to take care of Gobby for the rest of her life, so money was not a problem.
|My mom and Pippi, not too long before he died.|
Ever since that scary moment in the hospital when I forgot everything, I have lived with a fear that has settled down in my gut--a fear that I will get Alzheimer's one day as well. Alzheimer's disease has a genetic component to it, and there is even a test that I could take that will tell me if I have the gene marker. I haven't decided whether I will get the test yet, but it's something to think about.
There is also a good chance that my mom could get the disease, and I will end up being her caretaker.
Last year, when I wrote a blog post for Prudential about planning for the unexpected, Jerry and I finally got around to writing a living will, which sparked some discussions about health and finances. Since we're in our mid-30's, it's so easy to think that we'll just be healthy forever; but we realized that we actually have to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. If I should get Alzheimer's, I really don't want to be a burden on Jerry. I've seen firsthand what a toll it can take on loved ones, and I want to do anything that I can to ease that burden. (Interestingly, on this infographic by Prudential, "Not being a burden to loved ones" is one of the top financial goals for women.)
I think planning for the future just takes the same sort of time and thought. For example, I know that the more Jerry and I earn, the more we spend; and the less we earn, the less we spend. We adapt to what we’re given. So, in planning for a long-term illness, we just need to be prepared to adapt for it.
Of course, we're still going to hope for the best (that we'll live healthy lives into our 90's); but it never hurts to be prepared if life doesn't go as planned. (If you are interested in planning with a financial advisor, Prudential has a locator tool here to help find one.) Have any of you experienced Alzheimer's (or other chronic illness) first hand with a loved one? I hope by planning ahead, I'll be prepared to accept if it happens!
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