How to Prepare Your Finances with Parkinson’s Disease

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Today’s guest article comes from the Simple Dollar in an ever growing concern of financial considerations in healthcare.

You’ve received your diagnosis, and the tremors, stiffness, and slowing movement have a name. Parkinson’s disease (PD) disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and occurs when neurons in the brain gradually break down or die, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to physical and psychological symptoms, Parkinson’s disease costs more than $25.4 billion every year in medical expenses and $26.5 billion in missed work, lost wages, early forced retirement, and family caregiver time, according to a study conducted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can completely change your income and expenses, so it’s important to have a plan — and above all, remember that living with PD into old age is quite possible. You may want to meet with a financial advisor, set a budget or financial plan, evaluate your retirement fund, and consider how Medicare can help.

“Updating a financial plan upon diagnosis is advantageous for two primary reasons. First, a comprehensive financial plan offers peace of mind for the newly diagnosed and their families as they face an uncertain journey,” says Brendan Willmann, a certified financial planner and enrolled agent with Granada Wealth Management in Asheville, North Carolina. “Second, because the disease is degenerative, it is advantageous to review finances and estate planning prior to a decline in cognitive functioning. Doing so can help ensure decisions are made while meeting the legal requirement of a ‘sound mind.’”

What to Expect with Parkinson’s

There are five stages of PD and the disease progresses at each stage. No matter which stage you’ve been diagnosed in, it’s a good idea to have your finances in order because you may find that the disease becomes increasingly difficult to manage.

Stage 1
You may have mild symptoms such as tremors on one side of the body as well as changes in posture, walking and facial expressions.

Stage 2
Tremors, rigidity and other movement symptoms affect both sides of your body. Walking problems and poor posture may cause daily tasks to be more difficult if you live alone.

Stage 3
Stage 3 is considered mid-stage. Balance, movement slowness and falls are more common. Your symptoms can hinder everyday activities such as dressing and eating.

Stage 4
Symptoms are severe at this stage. You may be able to stand without assistance, but movement may require a walker. You’ll need assistance with everyday tasks and will be unable to live alone.

Stage 5
This is the most advanced stage. Stiffness in the legs may make it impossible to stand or walk and you’ll require a wheelchair or must be confined to bed. Nursing care is needed full time and you may even experience hallucinations and delusions.

Develop a Financial Plan

It’s important to think through how these stages will impact you both physically and financially. Here are a few items to consider as you plan your overall financial goals, and if you’re a younger Parkinson’s patient, you’ll need to consider these in more detail, particularly if you’re not ready for retirement.

Medical Expenses

Ask your medical team to help you estimate the costs of medical expenses, including medication like Carbidopa/Levodopa, as well as physical, occupational and/or speech therapy. You may also want to ask whether you’ll need deep brain stimulation (DBS), which is an electrode that’s implanted into a targeted area of the brain to help with tremors and motor issues.

Assistive Technology and Equipment

You may need equipment that will help you with day-to-day lifestyle changes. Adaptive equipment may include:

  • Compression hosiery
  • Adaptive clothing to make it easier to get dressed
  • Weighted utensils that can help stabilize eating movements
  • U-Step walkers to increase mobility
  • Transfer chairs and wheelchairs

Consider tapping into a health savings account (HSA) to pay for these types of expenses — an HSA is a tax-exempt savings account you can use to pay for certain medical expenses. Another option is to go to your local bank, credit union or online lender and look into a personal loan. Personal loans, which aren’t backed by collateral (you won’t lose your house or your car if you get one) can offer you a low interest rate for some of these necessities if you have good credit.

Potential Job Loss

You’ll need to plan for any potential job loss by rounding up disability insurance benefits, personal savings, retirement benefits (if you’re of retirement age), and more. Consider any supplemental income, like rental income, that will be able to help you bring in extra cash and which can bolster the money you bring in per month and in the event of a job loss. Open a savings account, money market account or any other low-risk account that will keep your money intact.

Long-Term Care Costs

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