Recent research claims that mismanagement of money by people with mild memory problems could prove early indicators of their future tryst with Alzheimer's.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Alzheimer's Disease Center, part of the Department of Neurology, assessed patients with a condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), assumed to be a precursor to Alzheimer's.
Eighty seven people with MCI and 76 controls with no memory problems were examined for the research.
The ability of all people in managing certain financial skills was observed at the starting point and then once again a year later, with the help of a UAB-developed tool called the Financial Capacity Instrument (FCI).
Skills like understanding a bank statement, balancing a checkbook, paying bills, preparing bills for mailing and counting coins and currency, were judged.
The researchers found that 25 of the MCI patients had progressed to Alzheimer's disease and that the overall FCI scores of these people had decreased 6 percent from their original scores and 9 percent for checkbook-management skills.
However, the control group and those MCI patients who did not progress to dementia maintained same level of FCI scores the whole year.
Daniel Marson, Ph.D., JD, professor of neurology and director of the UAB Alzheimer's Disease Center, said: "Declining financial skills are detectable in patients with mild cognitive impairment in the year before their conversion to Alzheimer's disease.
"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."
The professor added that caregivers should keep a close look on the patient's economic transactions.
He said: "Financial capacity has emerged as a key activity of daily living in understanding functional impairment and decline in patients with MCI and dementia.
"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."