Researchers from Maryland and Michigan recently published an article showing that six years prior to their diagnosis, individuals developing Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder were more likely to miss paying a bill compared to older adults without such a diagnosis (7.7% versus 7.3%), and they were also more likely to develop subprime credit scores (7.9% versus 6.9%). As the authors concede, there were a number of problems with the study, including unequal matching of the average age of the groups (79.4 versus 74.0 years), which could mean that the results were actually due to age, rather than Alzheimer’s disease. The authors did attempt to adjust for this difference with their statistical analyses, but sometimes that doesn’t fully correct for this type of inequality.
The tip of the iceberg
The biggest problem with the study, however, is that it grossly underestimates the true financial difficulties that those developing Alzheimer’s disease face. After reading this article, you might think, “Well, these differences are only 1% or less, that’s not a big deal.” But the article does not address the major financial issues facing people developing Alzheimer’s disease: poor decision-making and the related issue of falling victim to financial scams.
How many times a week — or a day — does your phone ring with someone offering you a new credit card, car loan, or investment deal? How often do you get a call from someone saying they are from your credit card company or the social security office?
Scams are a huge problem, with one of every 18 cognitively intact older adults in the United States falling victim to one. But individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia and those in the pre-dementia stage of mild cognitive impairment are even more susceptible. In fact, research in healthy older adults suggests