Mishandling Money May Foreshadow Alzheimer's

Trouble writing checks, paying bills preceded dementia, study found

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MONDAY, Sept. 21, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Money management difficulties may be a sign that people with mild memory problems will soon develop Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

It included 87 older people with mild cognitive impairment, and 76 others with no memory problems. All the participants took a money management test at the start of the study and again one year later. The test included buying groceries, counting coins, understanding and using a checkbook and bank statement, preparing bills for mailing, and identifying fraud situations.

After one year, 25 of the 87 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) had developed Alzheimer's. Those people scored lower on the initial test than participants without memory problems and those with MCI who didn't develop dementia, and their money management skills continued to decline over the following year.

The study appears in the Sept. 22 issue of Neurology.

"Our findings show that declining money management skills are detectable in patients with MCI in the year prior to developing Alzheimer's disease," senior study author Daniel Marson, of the neurology department and the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"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," Marson said.

"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," he added.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about age-related memory loss.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Sept. 21, 2009


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