2 Money Woes That Could Signal Alzheimer’s Years in Advance

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Senior man with Alzheimer's, memory disorder comforted by adult son.
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Some signs of Alzheimer’s disease include repeatedly asking questions, misplacing items, forgetting names and more.

Recent research suggests financial symptoms also can appear leading up to a diagnosis.

Researchers with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently found a link between financial deterioration and undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease or other memory disorders.

The study’s findings suggest that credit card and mortgage delinquencies increase “substantially” prior to a memory disorder diagnosis.

Specifically, researchers observed an increased level of credit card delinquency more than five years prior to a memory disorder diagnosis, and an increase in mortgage delinquency was observed more than three years prior.

Researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing anonymized Medicare data of individuals who ever had been diagnosed with a memory disorder and anonymized credit history data associated with those individuals’ Social Security numbers. The data spanned from 2000 through 2017.

This allowed the researchers to examine the potential effect of undiagnosed memory disorders on credit.

“Most memory disorders aren’t diagnosed until symptoms are severe, yet, given the progressive nature of disease, cognitive decline usually starts many years prior,” said the study’s lead researcher, health economist Carole Roan Gresenz, a professor in Georgetown’s School of Health and McCourt School of Public Policy.

“The earliest changes in cognition might not be noticeable by family members and friends, but may be quietly compromising financial decision-making.”

This most recent study expands on research by Gresenz from 2019.

For that previous study, researchers reviewed survey data on about 10,000 households and found that a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s faces a higher risk of poor financial outcomes. This is likely a result of compromised decision-making and others financially exploiting those individuals, according to the researchers.

Gresenz says these findings support possibly using credit report data in the early identification of memory disorders.

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