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Aug 22, 201912:57 PMExit Stage Right

with Martha Sullivan

This is how Alzheimer’s can take over your business and your life

(page 1 of 2)

Did you know that half of all business transitions are forced due to either death, disability, divorce, disagreement, or distress? With death and disability as two of the five “Ds,” health is a significant factor influencing continued ownership of a business.

One illness is growing in its potency to threaten continued business ownership — Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Consider the following from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States;
  • There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, nor a way to stop or slow its progression;
  • Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased 9 percent while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 145 percent;
  • One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined;
  • Only 16 percent of seniors receive regular cognitive assessments during routine health check-ups;
  • In 2019, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion;
  • Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease;
  • 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. The statistics for Wisconsin are sobering, as well, as our population skews older;
  • More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. That translates into 2.75 people providing unpaid care for every person living with Alzheimer’s;
  • These caregivers provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care valued at nearly $234 billion;
  • Alzheimer’s impacts all humans, regardless of economic status;
  • Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease;
  • People of color have higher risk levels. African-Americans are twice as likely, and Hispanics are 1.5 times as likely as Caucasians to develop the disease; and
  • Alzheimer’s is sneaky. The proteins and plaques may be present and developing for many, many years — up to a decade or more — before the symptoms of cognitive decline present themselves.

This epidemic is only going to grow with the aging demographic. The devastating effects will impact each of us — in your business and possibly in your own home — if it hasn’t already.

Alzheimer’s could assault the successful operation of your business in many ways, including:

  • You yourself develop the disease;
  • A loved one — your spouse, grandparent, parent, or dear friend — cognitively fails, demanding that you assume the role, in some capacity, of caregiver;
  • Your workforce — employees — develop the disease or need to assume the role of caregiver; or
  • Your clientele suffers cognitive decline.

You or your loved one

If you yourself begin to have cognitive decline, it’ll obviously catch up to you and your business. You may or may not be aware of it, and even if you are aware of it, you may or may not have the courage to seek out medical consultation. (You should! Early and correct diagnosis is key.) If you’re not aware of it, your co-workers may have started to see signs but are reluctant to speak up, feeling helpless as they witness your decline. Decisions and performance will be impacted. The long-term viability of the business is at a turning point and may be questionable.

When it’s your loved one living with the disease, such as your spouse or parent, your life spirals with complexity. You wonder: “Is this normal?”, “Are they safe?”, “Do I say something?”, “How do I deal with this?” You take on responsibilities you never had before, such as taking a bigger role in meals, shopping, housekeeping, yard work, basic daily care, transportation, medical appointments, and so on. Depending on the severity of your loved one’s dementia, your sleep patterns may be disrupted or shortened, and your time together filled with conflict and stress. You now have another full-time job on top of running your company. Your life is turned on its head.

Dollars to doughnuts, these situations will impede the results of the business. If you are unprepared to transition leadership of your business, financial results will decline. When that happens, the value of your company will deteriorate. The need to harvest liquidity from the business may be at an all-time high to pay for care, but your ability to do so may be seriously compromised.


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About This Blog

Spending half her career as an advisor to privately-held and family businesses and the other half in CFO/COO roles, Martha Sullivan is a partner and the succession planning practice leader in the business transition strategies group at Honkamp, Krueger & Co., P.C. She and her team have extensive experience assisting business owners achieve their personal, business, and transition goals. “Don’t think of the 'exit' from your business like it’s a four-letter word. Make it your next adventure!”



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