"Elder fraud is a serious problem and our findings suggest that even patients with mild Alzheimer's are at significantly increased risk for becoming victims of fraud" ....
I was late in discovering my mother was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
After my father passed away, my mother took over the the bill paying. She did this without a problem for over ten years. After I moved to Delray Beach to care of my mother, I discovered that there were all kinds of problems.
Alzheimer's Reading Room
I now know that problems paying bills and problems with the checkbook are early signs of dementia.
My advice to everyone is to allow the elderly to pay their own bills; but, to monitor the bill paying electronically if possible.
Not paying bills, paying the same bill twice, or frequently lateness are all pattern changes that can be an early tip-off that something is wrong; and that, tests are needed to rule out or rule in the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Many Alzheimer's caregivers mention this as one of the first signs they noticed of Alzheimer's disease.
Mild Alzheimer's Patients Show Rapid Decline In Financial Skills Over One Year
Research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that patients with mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) have a dramatic decline in their ability to make financial decisions over a one year period.
The findings in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry have strong implications for caregivers and health care providers in the areas of estate planning and fraud prevention.
The UAB team compared 55 patients with mild AD against 63 healthy older adults and followed them for one year. At the beginning of the trial, the mild AD group already showed a 20 percent decline in overall financial ability compared to the control group. By the end of the year, the AD group had dropped another 10 percent.
"After just one year, the mild AD group had dropped to 70 percent of the financial capacity demonstrated by the healthy older adult group, a significant decline," said Daniel Marson, J.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Alzheimer's Disease Center in the Department of Neurology and the study's lead author.
Patients were assessed on a variety of financial skills, including basic monetary skills, checkbook management, bill payment and understanding a bank statement. Tasks varied from simple ones such as identifying specific coins and currency to complex ones such as preparing bills, checks and envelopes for mailing.
Assessments were done using the Financial Capacity Instrument, (FCI-9), an instrument developed by Marson's group. The FCI-9 measures 18 different financial tasks within nine domains and has two overall scores.
The AD group showed substantial declines in overall financial capacity, on eight of the nine financial domains and on 12 of the 18 financial tasks. Of particular concern was decline in the ability to recognize telephone or mail fraud.
"Elder fraud is a serious problem and our findings suggest that even patients with mild Alzheimer's are at significantly increased risk for becoming victims of fraud," said Marson.
Overall the study found that impairment in financial skills occurs early in AD and progresses relatively rapidly over time, and includes declines in basic judgment and monetary calculation skills. The findings underscore the importance, at the time of diagnosis, of patients with mild AD and their families promptly pursuing financial planning and transfer of financial responsibilities, Marson said.
Proactive steps by families include finalizing trust and estate arrangements, delegating financial decision-making powers, planning for eventual financial incapacity, and providing increased supervision of existing financial activities.
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
University of Alabama at Birmingham
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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room