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When Money Skills Deteriorate, Watch for Alzheimer’s

As baby boomers age, so do their parents. New research suggests it may be time to think about assistance when mom or dad begins to have problems with money.

Inability to handle financial transactions or manage money may be an early indicator that a person with mild memory problems soon is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, say researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

The research, published in the journal Neurology, looked at patients with a condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), thought to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

Investigators followed 87 people with MCI and 76 controls with no memory problems. The participants’ ability to manage certain financial skills was assessed at the beginning of the study and then again one year later, using a UAB-developed tool called the Financial Capacity Instrument (FCI).

The skills included understanding a bank statement, balancing a checkbook, paying bills, preparing bills for mailing and counting coins and currency.

During the course of the year, 25 of the MCI patients had progressed to Alzheimer’s disease. The overall FCI scores for those 25 participants decreased 6 percent from their original scores and 9 percent for checkbook-management skills.

The control group and those MCI patients who did not progress to dementia maintained the level of their FCI scores throughout the year.

“Declining financial skills are detectable in patients with mild cognitive impairment in the year before their conversion to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Daniel Marson, Ph.D., JD, professor of neurology and director of the UAB Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“This indicates that physicians and health-care providers need to watch patients with MCI closely for declining financial skills and advise families and caregivers to take steps to avoid negative financial events.”

Marson suggests that caregivers can oversee a patient’s checking transactions, contact the patient’s bank to detect irregularities such as bills being paid twice or become co-signers on a checking account so that joint signature is required for checks above a certain amount. Online banking and bill payment services are additional options for families.

“Financial capacity has emerged as a key activity of daily living in understanding functional impairment and decline in patients with MCI and dementia,” said Marson.

“The capacity to manage one’s own financial affairs is critical to success in independent living. Impairments in financial skills and judgment are often the first functional changes demonstrated by patients with incipient dementia.”

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

When Money Skills Deteriorate, Watch for Alzheimer’s

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). When Money Skills Deteriorate, Watch for Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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