NEW YORK (CBS 2) – About five million American seniors are battling Alzheimer ’s disease, and among them is the father of CBS 2’s own Dr. Max Gomez.
His story, sadly, demonstrates how the disease can impact a patient’s finances, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.
The elder Dr. Max Gomez was a successful OB-GYN in Miami, delivering thousands of babies. He lived the good life.”
“I should have a lot of money in my pocket,” he said.
Dr. Gomez is now penniless, though, and living in a care facility paid for by Medicaid.
His son is CBS 2 medical correspondent Dr. Max Gomez. Even with his training, he missed the warning signs of Alzheimer’s in his father until three years ago.
“His bank account had been plundered,” he said. “Essentially, his life savings were gone.”
The elder Dr. Gomez was not practicing medicine, but he still had the title of medical director at a clinic. That clinic made him legally responsible for multiple commercial loans and took out mortgages in his name.
A “girlfriend” wrote thousands of dollars in checks against his savings account. The FBI started investigating after his I.D. was used to file millions of dollars in false Medicare claims.
“Here he was, helpless, and being taken advantage of left and right,” Dr. Gomez said of his father. “There’s never one big ‘ah ha’ moment.”
Alzheimer’s patients can often seem lucid, even as the disease is destroying the brain.
“Financial difficulties are a very sensitive way of picking out future problems,” Dr. Mony De Leon, director of the NYU Langone Center for Brain Health, said.
The financial services industry realizes brokers and bankers may see aging clients more often than out-of-town families do, and is training representatives to report warning signs.
“Personal hygiene, confusion, mood swings, losing things,” Susan Axelrod, of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said. “Also, importantly, changing a long-term investment strategy suddenly.”
Experts do have tips about what families can do to prevent it from happening to their loved ones. Families should assume power of attorney over financial affairs, set up automatic bill payments, and monitor monthly statements. It’s also a good idea to create a master list of accounts and passwords.
Dr. Max Gomez said his father still does not remember losing his money, and does not admit he has Alzheimer’s.
“I would say I’m getting old, I am forgetting things,” the elder Dr. Gomez said..
“He was my role model, my mentor,” Dr. Max said of his father. “I take care of him. It’s my job.”
Is it a job he ever envisioned having?
“I thought about it,” he said. “You just do it. It’s just the way it is.”
It can be awkward to talk about money matter with family, but it’s well worth it to uncover warning signs of dementia that can help prevent financial devastation.
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