Missing credit card or loan payments could be early sign of dementia, finds study

New research finds that financial mismanagement is ‘upsettingly common’

Joanna Whitehead@MsWhitehead100
Thursday 03 December 2020 09:37
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Missing credit card or loan payments could be an early sign of dementia, according to a new study.

Researchers at John Hopkins University found that older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia were found to miss payments up to six years before a formal diagnosis.

Patients with a lower level of formal education were also found to start missing payments up to seven years before a diagnosis. Those with a higher level of education did not start showing financial “symptoms” until two and a half years before.

Associate professor and lead author Lauren Hersch Nicholas said it was unclear whether this discrepancy was “because they’re not getting health care as quickly and so that’s why we have a longer period” or whether “the symptoms just materialise earlier for them”.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA, investigated over 80,000 Medicare beneficiaries living alone and analysed their consumer credit report outcomes between 1999 and 2018.

It concluded that poor financial decisions associated with the degenerative disease impacted their credit scores.

“I think we were a little surprised that it was so common that we could really see it in the data,” said Nicholas.

“It's upsettingly common,” she said.

“At the height of our results, we're finding dementia is accounting for between 5 per cent and 20 per cent of the missed payments among those who eventually developed dementia.”

She added: “Lots of other factors also cause you to miss making payments, but I think dementia turns out being one of the most important ones as well in this age group."

The researchers hoped that their findings would help raise awareness amongst patients and their loved ones that something is wrong before catastrophic financial mistakes result in the loss of a house or giving away retirement money to a scammer.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, there are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK in 2019.

This figure represents one in every 14 of the population aged 65 years and over.

Women are disproportionately affected by the condition, with women outnumbering men two to one worldwide.

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