Discovering Dementia: Check the Bank Account


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than five million Americans live with dementia, which is an umbrella term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life. Surprisingly, more than half don’t even know they have it. While getting lost, forgetting events, and struggling with vocabulary are common red flags we notice early on, can changes in finances be the blind spot we never thought to look at? As Ivanhoe reports, we might have seen the signs years earlier.

That missed bill payment may mean so much more than an oversight.

“It’s difficult to differentiate Alzheimer’s/dementia from normal aging because we all experience these memory slips as we age,” said Gary Small, MD, Director at UCLA Longevity Center.

One study found that dementia patients were more likely to miss payments up to six years before being diagnosed, and subprime credit scores can show up two and a half years prior. Dementia actually accounted for up to 20 percent of the missed payments.

“The earlier you can diagnose someone and treat them, the better their overall outcome,” explained Dr. Small.

To recognize the early warning signs in loved ones, look out for unpaid or unopened bills piling up in the house, irregular buying of items they already own or don’t need, paying for the wrong month or paying bills twice, requesting the same financial information, like passwords and account numbers, multiple times a day, and difficulty in math skills, such as counting change, calculating a tip, balancing a checkbook, or understanding a bank statement. If your loved one is diagnosed, talk about obtaining a durable power of attorney.

“You can go ahead and pay his or her bills. You can help them make medical decisions when they can’t speak for themselves,” shared Goretti Garcia, MBA, a financial planner at Woman’s Worth.

They may feel a loss of control, so giving them small amounts of cash and minimizing the spending limits on their credit cards can keep them feeling independent without risking any drastic losses.

In the study, patients with a lower level of education who later developed dementia started missing payments nearly seven years pre-diagnosis. Higher educated patients didn’t show until two and a half years before. While the reason is unclear, experts say less advantaged groups lack the ability to get access to quality care and that could play a part.

Contributors to this news report include: Addlyn Teague, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2829

BACKGROUND: Dementia is a term that encompasses loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities which become so severe that they interfere with daily life. Disorders grouped under dementia are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes trigger a decline in thinking skills, also known as cognitive abilities, severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behavior, feelings and relationships. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of cases. There are other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.


SYMPTOMS AND RISKS: Symptoms of dementia can vary depending on the cause, but common signs to look for include memory loss, difficulty communicating or finding words, difficulty with visual and spatial abilities like getting lost while driving, difficulty reasoning or problem-solving, difficulty with coordination and motor functions, and confusion or disorientation. Some psychological changes can be personality changes, depression or anxiety, paranoia, agitation, or hallucinations. The risk for dementia rises as you age, especially after age 65. However, dementia can occur in younger people. Having a family history of dementia puts you at greater risk of developing the condition. But ironically, many people with a family history never develop symptoms and many people without a family history do. There is a test offered to determine whether you have certain genetic mutations. By middle age, some people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. A few risk factors that can be controlled are diet and exercise, alcohol use, diabetes, smoking, and vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.


A TURNING POINT IN TREATMENT: The FDA will announce in early 2021 whether to allow clinical use of the drug aducanumab to treat Alzheimer’s disease which signals a potential breakthrough. Amyloid buildup in the brain is what drives Alzheimer’s, but early intervention even before symptoms appear, may be essential. Advances in blood-based biomarkers are enabling progress toward primary prevention as well. Aducanumab, a monoclonal anti-amyloid antibody, has failed in previous trials because it targeted people with advanced cases in which amyloids had already damaged the brain. But it did clear out amyloids, which means that if individuals can be identified early, major progress in treating the disease might be possible. “The entire field has changed dramatically with the advent of amyloid PET and tau PET imaging,” Paul Aisen, founding director of the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI) said. “We can now see lesions of the brain longitudinally in living people.” There are currently two international trials of anti-amyloid immunotherapy in asymptomatic patients that have been launched at ATRI.


* For More Information, Contact:

Gary Small, MD

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