Financial Missteps Could Signal Future Dementia


“Businesses like banks and credit card companies may be on the front lines on dementia detection and prevention,” she said.

Heather Snyder, vice president for medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, said these findings are not surprising, and “add to other work in this area aiming to identify what may be the first noticeable changes a person may experience.”

Past work highlights that changes in judgment, financial ability or decision-making may be the first memory and thinking changes that people and family members notice, Snyder said.

This new research suggests an association between early Alzheimer’s-related brain changes and poor financial decision making, she said. “It does not, however, prove cause, and it does not mean that older individuals who miss a payment have dementia,” Snyder stressed.

Many other personal, social and economic reasons can account for why someone may make poor financial decisions, such as making late payments or overspending.

“If you are concerned about an individual’s changes in memory or judgment, schedule an appointment with the doctor to discuss the symptoms and get an evaluation,” Snyder said.

And if a decline in mental acuity is spotted, there are ways to help shield individuals against fraud and scammers.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “because of their vulnerability, people with Alzheimer’s disease hold a higher risk of being victims of scams, fraud, and crime.” The association recommends:

  • Putting up a “no solicitation” sign on the outside entrance to the home.
  • Calling the national “Do Not Call” Registry (1-888-382-1222) to cut down on phone solicitations.
  • Removing a person’s name from the credit bureau’s mailing list. To do so, call the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry at (1-888-567-8688).
  • Registering with the DMA (Direct Marketing Association), www.dmachoice.org to help reduce solicitations by mail.

The new study was published online Nov. 30 in JAMA Internal Medicine.


More information

For more on helping a loved one avoid scams, including the common “grandparent scam,” head to the Alzheimer’s Association.

SOURCES: Lauren Hersch Nicholas, PhD, associate professor, health economist, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; Heather Snyder, PhD, vice president, medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer’s Association; JAMA Internal Medicine, Nov. 30, 2020, online




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