Memory & Money Management Troubles: An Early Alzheimer’s Symptom?

October 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm 3 comments

Image by the talented Lusi, on Stock.Xchng

Having trouble balancing the checkbook, counting change, or reading your bank statement?  If the difficulty is recent, it could be an early (and easy to detect) sign of Alzheimer’s development..

The difference between mild age-related memory problems and the onset of Alzheimer’s is tough for lay people to detect, and our concerns can cause a lot of unnecessary worry when we misplace our keys or stumble over a word.

But a new bit of research from the University of Alabama reveals that difficulties with money may be an important clue, one that nearly anyone can pick up on.

The study followed a group of 163 people over the course of a year.  A little over half of them showed mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study; the remainder had no memory problems.   All of them were tested on their ability to handle finances:  balancing a checkbook,  preparing bills for mailing, counting coins and paper currency, understanding a bank statement, etc.

Over the course of the year, 25 of those with mild cognitive impairment developed diagnosable Alzheimer’s disease – and their scores on the money-handling tests declined significantly over that year.

But the patients who didn’t develop Alzheimer’s had no changes in their test scores – even those who did have some memory problems still maintained their ability to handle money.

The conclusion? That the progression from mild (and assumed normal) memory problems to Alzheimer’s – usually difficult to detect – may be more easily recognized when a person starts struggling with money.   The researchers recommend that health care providers, family members and caregivers may want to monitor finances when there are early signs of cognitive trouble – not only to avert financial mishaps, but also for clues that more serious problems are developing.

Being able to handle our own finances is crucial to a sense of independence, so if this does become necessary, approach the subject tactfully, and make any monitoring as unobtrusive and tactful as possible.

For some of us, this information may serve as a reassurance that we (or our loved ones) are just being a little bit forgetful, and not on the verge of developing more serious dementia.   It may also serve as an early warning sign, prompting us to call the doctor, and take more assertive actions to protect the health and well being of our brain.

Don’t miss out on Dakim’s “Give Thanks for Loved Ones” Contest, running now through November 5th.  You could win a $2500 brain fitness system for a senior friend or family member!

Entry filed under: memory. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. judemymum  |  October 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    A neat and effective way of detecting cognitive impairment, and one which van easily be observed without the need right away for complex assessment.

  • 2. judemymum  |  October 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Oops – let’s hope hitting the wrong key isn’t also a neat and effective way etc etc. “Can” rather than “van”.

    • 3. Tori Deaux  |  October 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm

      Hi, Jude, and glad you enjoyed the post! I would have corrected the typo for you, but your own correction was so cute I didn’t want to have to delete it!


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A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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