The Slippery Slope of Memory Loss

By Rick Law, elder care attorney and estate planner at the Estate Planning Center of Law Elder Law in Aurora, serving Kane, Kendall, DuPage, Will, Cook, and other counties in Northern Illinois.

Almost every day I learn more about the subtleties and surprises within the elder care journey. At Law Elder Law we often work with families who have a loved one affected by some type of dementia.

About 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to hear University of Pennsylvania neurologist Dr. Jason Karlawish speak to a group of lawyers about clients who may have Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia.  As we non-medical people observe folks with memory loss, we assume that the individual is losing his or her memory on a constant downward sliding path.  According to Dr. Karlawish, however, that is not the right way to think about memory loss.

Dr. Karlawish taught me that I need to change the way I look at memory loss.  He helped me understand that different brain functions are affected with differing rates of decline.

“Attorneys are linear thinkers. You are trained to think in a linear and logical fashion, and so you believe that if your clients can give the correct answer to a fact based question, then they are still capable.  You assume that if they know that 2+2=4, then they are capable of managing their affairs.” He shook his head and stated, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

It turns out, someone who is suffering from dementia can retain their linear thinking, but lose their ability to comprehend the consequences of what that answer means.

As I listened to him speak, it hit me that this was exactly what was happening with one of my clients. This client was responsibly caring for his wife, but the family was continually calling to tell me that “Bill” was making foolish decisions with money, and it was running out at a frightening rate. But when Bill came into my office, nothing seemed to be wrong; he drove himself, he brought his accounting books and we would go over his records together. He seemed capable of handling all his affairs because he gave me all the right answers.

Nonetheless, within the next day or two he would do something as bizarre as hiring an $800 ambulance service to get his wife to her weekly hair appointment. Suddenly I realized that although Bill was able to tell me how much was in his bank account, he could no longer understand the meaning of those numbers.

If your loved one has memory problems and you’re afraid of the consequences that may bring, give our office a call today at 800-310-3100.  Your first consultation is absolutely free.  We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family.  Call now.


Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees.

Rick has been named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney for the past 8 years in a row by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine,, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future.  Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care.  Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!

Our Reviews

My wife and I had our first child three years ago. That’s when we decided to set up a trust, should anything happen to either of us. We reached out to Zach Hesselbaum to help us out. He was very thorough and professional throughout the whole process. Zach went above and beyond to make sure that we understood every detail of setting it up and he did an excellent job. We recently had our second child a few months ago. With the new baby, he helped us make the necessary revisions to the trust. Zach made this process great for us! I would definitely recommend using him for any of your estate planning needs!

Tom G., Naperville, IL