Key sign in how you manage your money could be early symptom of dementia, new study reveals

By Staff 7 Min Read

An early sign that you may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may be identified in how you handle finances and your everyday affairs, according to researchers

People have been warned of an early sign of dementia that could be revealed in how they handle money.

It is well known that someone who has dementia will struggle with dealing with their finances and may need help, but new research shows that a difficulty with money can actually be one of the first indications of the illness.

Dementia is an overall term for a collection of symptoms for diseases including Alzheimer’s that are caused by abnormal brain changes, with the condition affecting more than 944,000 people in the UK. The Alzheimer’s Association states: “Dementia symptoms trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behaviour, feelings and relationships.”

And a new study has now found that by looking at behaviour during banking and taking it alongside standard clinical indicators in overall health, 71% of people could be identified with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia four years earlier.

“The years before a dementia diagnosis may be an acutely vulnerable period for individuals, leading to poor financial decisions,” stated the paper written by Prof Cal Muckley and his colleagues at UCD College of Business. “We test if the information content of older persons’ incipient money management difficulties can help identify vulnerable individuals with early-stage dementia.

“We show that clinically informed lead indicators of dementia, extended to include money management difficulties, can inform a high-performance AI model to predict a clinical diagnosis. Invariant to extensive robustness tests, after age, money management difficulties is consistently ranked the most important lead indicator of dementia.” He also told HuffPost UK: “Our work shows that money management difficulties comprise invaluable information regarding early-stage dementia.

“It is well recognised that early-stage dementia typically goes unnoticed by the individual and their family members. We show that money management difficulties should be taken seriously as a lead indicator of dementia, especially if stressful experiences such as bankruptcy, bereavement, and divorce, which might explain money management difficulty, can be ruled out.”

Meanwhile, a previous study showed that willingness to give away money may be linked to dementia. Gali H. Weissberger, senior lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Barllan University in Israel, was the first author of the study were participants were assessed by being put in a scenario where they had to decide about giving or keeping actual money.

The 67 adults involved also underwent a series of cognitive tests, such as word and story recall. For the laboratory task, volunteers were told they’d been paired with an anonymous person who completed the task online and they were thereafter asked to decide whether to give money to the anonymous person or keep it for themselves.

The volunteers were given $10 and instructed to allocate it however they wished, in $1 increments, between themselves and the anonymous person. It emerged that those who scored worse on the cognitive tests were more likely to give away money. These cognitive tests are typically used to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in the initial stages.

“Participants who gave more away scored significantly lower on the neuropsychological tests known to be sensitive to early Alzheimer’s disease,” reported MedicalXpress. Duke Han, PhD, director of neuropsychology in the Department of Family Medicine and a professor of family medicine, neurology, psychology and gerontology at the Keck School of Medicine, said: “Our goal is to understand why some older adults might be more susceptible than others to scam, fraud, or financial exploitation. Trouble handling money is thought to be one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and this finding supports that notion.”

Share This Article
Leave a comment