Somewhere around age 60, most people start worrying about mental decline. That is not surprising since we see it all around us. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of adults 65 and older suffer from cognitive impairment and at least 10% suffer from dementia.
At the same time, adults are working longer. Forty percent of people 55 and older are still working, compared with only 29 percent in 1993. Expect this number to continue to increase because seniors will need more money to retire; low bond yields mean low future returns for a lot of savings accounts.
All that means that more people who are still working will start to experience some sort of cognitive decline. You might think these people would voluntarily remove themselves from the workforce, but that rarely happens. One of the effects of a progressive dementing illness is declining self-awareness.
This can lead to a situation that is cringeworthy. While a lot of people love their work, very few of them want to continue until they become such an embarrassment that they are forced to leave.
What is the answer?
What Is An Occupational Living Will?
An Occupational Living Will. That is a written plan for transitioning out of your career or profession if your cognitive or functional skills significantly deteriorate.
Sound difficult to write? It is not if you break it down into small sections and seek the input of others in your profession.
What Should An Occupational Living Will Have?
The plan should start with a commitment that you do not want to continue working if it means that you cannot be effective/professional/useful. Then define the terms. Does “working” mean that you will work less hours, work only with a co-worker, or quit? Does “effective” mean supervising 500 people or merely giving input to a team?
If you have a transition plan in mind, then write it down. Could you do some of the job functions if you had increased support? What would increased support look like for your job? Which job responsibilities should be removed, and in what order? What work habits would need to be changed to accommodate a gradual decline in mental functioning?
Decide who among your colleagues or peers you can trust to give you a fair assessment of your functioning. It might be easier to pull them in on a groupthink, where everyone in the group has an Occupational Living Will and promises to share their observations with each other.
Think now about the influencers you will need to convince your future self to follow the plan. Remember that a hallmark of dementia is denial and that, when the time comes, you may not easily accept the plan. It might be a good idea to make a video or recording of yourself talking through your reasoning, thoughts and wishes. This could be played back to you when necessary.
Make sure to include a point in the process at which you would go for a formal evaluation by a cognitive neurologist or a geriatric psychiatrist. The doctor will be able to assess your mental capabilities and determine which functions you can still perform.
Finally, share the plan with people you trust who can support you through the process. Update as necessary.
Get Help With Creating Your Occupational Living Will in Lewisville, TX
Virginia Hammerle is an attorney with Hammerle Finley Law Firm whose practice includes probate law, estate planning and contested litigation. To receive her newsletter contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.