Dementia: The sign in your financial behaviour that may signal ‘early’ stages of disease

Dementia: The sign in your financial behaviour that may signal ‘early’ stages of disease

Frontotemporal dementia symptoms include 'changes in personality'

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Dementia is already a global emergency, but with no cure in the offing, the disease is continuing to advance rapidly. An early diagnosis, however, can open the door to timely treatment and prolong quality of life. According to the findings of a new study, willingness to give away money may be linked to the cognitive profile of early Alzheimer’s.

Gali H. Weissberger, senior lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Barllan University in Israel, and the first author of the study said: “To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the relationship using behavioural economics paradigm.”

Participants were assessed by being put in a scenario where they had to decide about giving or keeping actual money.

The 67 adults involved in the study also underwent a series of cognitive tests, such as word and story recall.

For the laboratory task, volunteers were told they’d been paired with an anonymous person who completed the task online.

READ MORE: Dementia: ‘Moderate’ beer consumption may ‘reduce’ your risk of brain decline, says expert

They were thereafter asked to decide whether to give money to the anonymous person or keep it for themselves.

The volunteers were given $10 and instructed to allocate it however they wished, in $1 increments, between themselves and the anonymous person.

It emerged that those who scored worse on the cognitive tests were more likely to give away money.

These cognitive tests are typically used to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in the initial stages.

“Participants who gave more away scored significantly lower on the neuropsychological tests known to be sensitive to early Alzheimer’s disease,” reported MedicalXpress.

“There were no significant performance differences on other neuropsychological tests.”

Duke Han, PhD, director of neuropsychology in the Department of Family Medicine and a professor of family medicine, neurology, psychology and gerontology at the Keck School of Medicine, said: “Our goal is to understand why some older adults might be more susceptible than others to scam, fraud, or financial exploitation.

“Trouble handling money is thought to be one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and this finding supports that notion.”

Weissberger added: “If a person is experiencing some kind of change in their altruistic behaviour, that might indicate that changes are also happening in the brain.”

The researchers did point out, however, that the findings should not lead people to think that financial altruism is a bad thing.

“It can certainly be a deliberate and positive use of a person’s money,” noted Professor Han.

Financial behaviour in dementia patients has been explored in a great number of previous studies.

Findings have previously suggested dementia patients have trouble handling their finances and paying bills.

This prior discovery led to the hypothesis that repeated financial mistakes could be an early sign of cognitive decline.

As the condition advances, patients tend to show signs of changed behaviour and increased frailty.

Alzheimer’s UK adds that “as dementia progress and causes changes to the person’s brain, they may struggle to do many of the things they used to,” which may lead to increased dependence on other people.

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