Study: Money Management Problems Found Years Before Dementia Diagnosis

Researchers regularly look for early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One early sign that you don’t hear about as often is problems with money management.

A February study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias were associated with adverse financial events years before clinical diagnosis. The study was the first large-scale research that analyzed the ability to manage money before and after the diagnosis of dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging

The study authors, led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, analyzed credit report outcomes between 1999 and 2018 that were linked to Medicare claims data. The analysis included 81,364 Medicare beneficiaries living in single-person households. All participants were at least 65 years old. Researchers focused on single-person households to ensure they were the person who held the financial responsibility for the household.

The adverse financial events they considered were missed payments that were 30 or more days late and listed on credit accounts and scores that were between 580 and 669 (subprime credit scores). 

The researchers found that Medicare beneficiaries who were eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia were more likely to miss payments on credit accounts up to six years before their diagnosis compared to demographically similar beneficiaries who did not have an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.

Those who were eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia also were more likely to develop subprime credit scores at 2½ years before their diagnosis.

After diagnosis, those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias were still more likely to miss payments and have subprime credit scores than Medicare beneficiaries who did not have the diagnosis.

The adverse financial events were more common among patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementia with a lower level of education. Although missed payments and lower credit scores were common for all levels of education, the time period when they occurred was longer for those with less education.

Among those included in the study, 31% were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementia for at least a quarter of the observation. The mean age of participants was 74 years old for those who were never diagnosed and 79.4 years old for those who were diagnosed. 

“The study’s results help show that the period during which an older adult might be at risk of financial mismanagement and scams may be longer than currently understood and point to the need for early diagnostic tools and policies to help protect older adults,” according to the National Institute on Aging. Better support services and financial guidance could help those with dementia to get the resources they need to continue financial security and independence, the researchers noted.

Call Secure Aging to Find Out How We Can Help Seniors With Financial Management

At Secure Aging in Bradenton, we transform the weight of the world into a sigh of relief for our senior clients and their concerned family members. The mission of Secure Aging is to protect and preserve our client’s independence and dignity through careful and thoughtful financial and care management. As our clients age, it is their desire to remain independent and age with dignity. Our services protect our clients from talented con artists looking to exploit and deplete the financial resources of our vulnerable seniors. Secure Aging helps families in Manatee County and Sarasota County and in and around the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Myakka City, Palmetto, Parrish, and Sarasota. Call us at 941-761-9338, or visit us online at

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