Sept. 21, 2009 - Money management problems among the elderly may be an early predictor of Alzheimer’s disease.
A new study suggests that difficulties balancing a checkbook or dealing with other financial matters may be the first sign that an older person with otherwise mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is about to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our findings show that declining money management skills are detectable in patients with MCI in the year prior to developing Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher Daniel Marson, JD, PhD, of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in a news release.
Early Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease
The study, published in Neurology, followed 87 older people with mild memory problems but no symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and 76 healthy older adults for one year.
The participants were tested on their money management skills at the beginning and end of the study, including understanding and using a checkbook, counting coins, making purchases at a grocery store, understanding a bank statement, and detecting financial fraud situations.
During the course of the study, 25 of the older adults with mild cognitive impairment went on to develop Alzheimer’s-type dementia.
Researchers found those who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease scored worse at the start of the study and showed a greater rate of decline in money management skills than the others.
In particular, the scores of those who developed Alzheimer’s disease dropped by 9% in the area of checkbook management and by 6% on overall financial knowledge and skills when compared with the healthy older adults.
Researchers say the results suggest that money management problems may be an early warning sign of impending Alzheimer's disease in older people with otherwise normal memory problems.
“Doctors should proactively monitor people with MCI for declining financial skills and advise them and their caregivers about steps they can take to watch for signs of poor money management,” says Marson. “Caregivers should consider overseeing a person’s checking transactions, contacting the person’s bank to find money issues such as bills being paid twice, or become co-signers on the checking account so that both signatures are required for checks written above a certain amount. Online banking and bill payment services are also good options.”