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Approaching Memory Loss Concerns

It can be difficult to know what to do if you’ve noticed changes in yourself or a family member or friend — particularly when they’re related to memory loss, thinking or behavior. It’s natural to feel uncertain about voicing your worries because that can make them seem more “real.” However, these are significant health concerns, and it's important to take action to figure out what's going on.

Print a guide to take notes:

  • Guide for those who have noticed changes in themselves - English | Spanish (PDF)
  • Guide for those who have noticed changes in others - English | Spanish (PDF)

Assess the situation

  • What changes in memory, thinking or behavior do you notice?

    What have you noticed that's out of the ordinary and causing concern?

  • What else is going on?

    Various conditions can cause short-term or long-term memory loss and affect thinking or behavior. Are there any health or lifestyle issues that could be a factor? These may include family stressors or medical problems like diabetes or depression.

  • Has anyone else noticed changes?

    Has a family member or friend expressed concerns? What did he or she notice?

  • Are any of these changes a sign or symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia?

    View the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to check if they’re on the list.

Start a conversation

  • Who should participate in the conversation to discuss concerns?

    If you’ve noticed changes in yourself, confide in a person you trust. If you’ve noticed changes in someone else, the person who has the conversation could be you, a trusted family member or friend or a combination of these individuals.

  • What is the best time and place to have this conversation?

    Have the conversation as soon as possible. Choose a time and location that will be comfortable for everyone involved.

  • How will you approach the conversation?

    Try the following if you’ve noticed changes in yourself:

    • I’ve noticed [blank] in myself, and I’m concerned. Have you noticed anything about me that worries you?

    Try the following if you’ve noticed changes in someone else:

    • I’ve noticed [blank] in you, and I’m concerned. Have you noticed it? Are you worried?
    • How have you been feeling lately? You haven’t seemed like yourself.
    • I noticed you [specific example], and it worried me. Has anything else like that happened?

Evaluating memory: What you can expect

It's important to visit a doctor and get evaluated when you or a family member or friend is facing memory loss concerns. Knowing what to expect can ease anxiety and help you prepare for necessary tests.

Learn About the Process

  • Discuss seeing a doctor together.

    Many conditions can cause memory loss or affect thinking and behavior, so it’s important to get a full medical evaluation. If the cause isn't Alzheimer’s or another dementia, it could be a treatable condition. If it is dementia, there are many benefits to receiving an early and accurate diagnosis, including the opportunity to plan for the future, access support services and explore medication that may address some symptoms for a time.

    Many people find it helpful to bring a trusted friend or family member to the medical evaluation.

    Try the following if you’ve noticed changes in yourself:

    • I think it would give me peace of mind to see a doctor and find out what’s going on. Would you be willing to go with me for support?

    Try the following if you’ve noticed changes in someone else:

    • There are lots of things that could be causing these changes, and dementia may or may not be one of them. Let’s see if the doctor can help us figure out what’s going on.

    • The sooner we know what’s causing these problems, the sooner we can address them.

    • I think it would give us both peace of mind if we talked with a doctor.

  • If needed, have multiple conversations.

    The first conversation may not be successful. Some people attribute problems with memory, thinking or behavior to stress or normal aging and may not take your concerns seriously. Write down some notes about the experience to help you plan for the next conversation. Consider the location, day and time; what worked well and what didn’t; who was involved; the end result; and what could be done differently the next time.

Reach out for help

  • Turn to the Alzheimer’s Association for information and support.

    • Call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 to speak with a master’s-level clinician about your concerns and next steps.

    • Explore the Alzheimer's Association and AARP Community Resource Finder to find local resources such as a health care professional or your closest Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

    • Visit our Training and Education Center to take an online course anytime and learn more about a variety of topics related to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

 

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How Returning to Work Impacts Social Security Benefits 

The ins and outs of working while receiving Social Security, including 2020’s new higher limits on how much you can make without getting penalized.Retired at last! You start Social Security payments, glad to finally be free of the 9-to-5 routine. But then life changes, and you realize you need more income than your monthly government check provides. Or you surprise yourself by becoming bored, and take a part-time job to have a little something to do. Maybe you are managing just fine, but an interesting offer comes up for consulting, or employment at the company of your dreams. These and other scenarios may incentivize you to work while receiving Social Security benefits. Here is what you should know about potential reductions to benefits while you are earning income.

Age is Key

If you have already reached full retirement age (FRA) when you claim benefits and/or return to work, then you can earn any amount without penalty. Check the chart below for your FRA. 

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943 to 1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 or later

67

 

Data from Social Security Administration 

If you return to work before reaching your FRA, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn above the annual limit ($18,240 for 2020). For example, if you retire early and go back to work before your full retirement age and earn a salary of $30,000, you’ll be $11,760 over the annual limit. Therefore, your Social Security benefits will be reduced by $5,880.

However, if you return to work the year you reach FRA, the limit rises to $48,600. In addition, only the earnings you make before the month you reach FRA are counted. Sounds complicated, but a couple of examples make it easier to understand:

You work the entire year you reach full retirement age in June. From January 31 to May 1, you earned $15,000. That’s under the limit, so your benefits for the year remain the same. 

You work the entire year you reach full retirement age in June. From January 31 to May 1, you earned $50,000. You earned $1,400 over the limit, so your Social Security is reduced by $700.

It is worthwhile to note that your Social Security check reductions will all be taken at the beginning of the year, and not averaged out over the year. If your benefit is $1,000 a month, say, and $3,500 of it will be withheld, then you will receive no check at all for the first four months, and the final $500 you are owed will be sent in December. For a more complete explanation of how earnings limits work, see the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) How We Deduct Earnings From Benefits

Reduction is Temporary

The amount of Social Security benefits withheld is temporary. Once you hit FRA, your benefit amount is recalculated and assigns you credit for those months you did not get a benefit because of earnings. However, it does not get repaid in one lump sum. Check this article for a complete explanation.

 Another point to keep in mind is that you must keep paying into Social Security for as long as you continue to work. This may be in your favor, since benefits are calculated using your highest 35 years of income. Adding working years will replace any when you didn’t work at all, or when you earned less money. 

If you want to check how much working will reduce your annual benefits, use the SSA’s Retirement Earnings Test Calculator. To get the long version of this article straight from the horse’s mouth, see the SSA’s publication about How Work Affects Your Benefits.  

Taxes 

You may wonder if returning to work will change how your Social Security benefits are taxed. It all depends on your MAGI, or modified adjusted gross income. As that increases above a certain level, a larger percentage of your benefits may be subject to tax, up to a maximum of 85%. 

As far as state taxes are concerned, only thirteen states collect income tax on Social Security benefits. That number can be misleading. For example, although Colorado will tax Social Security income, the state exempts $20,000 in annual retirement income 

As you consider the effects of taxes on returning to work, it is wise to consult a financial advisor or other trusted financial professional for guidance. 

Many retirees have found a happy medium between leisure and work. You can certainly be one of them, but do not go back to work with your eyes closed to all of the consequences on your wallet. Check out the tools and publications available from the SSA, and consult a professional for advice on making Social Security work in your favor. 



Click below for the other articles in the January 2020 Senior Spirit

Sources:

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