How people manage money may help detect dementia four years earlier – study

Demetia levels here set to reach 140,000 by 2050

How people manage their money may be able to detect Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias up to four years earlier, new research has found.

The Irish study found that 71 per cent of people clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are identified four years in advance when considering money management difficulties alongside lead indicators. For individuals living in a single-person household, this rate rises to 92 per cent.

Prof Cal Muckley from UCD College of Business, and assistant professor Shivam Agarwal from Maynooth University, examined the importance of including money management difficulties, compared to lead dementia indicators, in predicting ADRD diagnosis with a machine learning algorithm. Lead indicators include age, education, health and gender, among others.

“Relative to other lead indicators, excluding age, money management difficulties are ranked the most important lead indicator of a clinical diagnosis of dementia,” said Prof Muckley.

The findings suggest that financial institutions with insight into the transactions of older customers are uniquely positioned to identify who might be in a vulnerable situation due to early-stage dementia.

Banks can then use this data to enhance their protection of customers with dementia and to inform the inter-generational transfer of financial control to a reliable agent.

The researchers said that, as financial institutions have a duty of care to protect their customers, they are required to enable these individuals to achieve the same financial outcomes as experienced by those customers not afflicted by such challenging personal circumstances.

This study, published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, is the first to show money management difficulties are of paramount importance to predicting dementia. The paper can be viewed and downloaded on SSRN here.

According to 2022 figures, around 55,000 people in Ireland are clinically diagnosed with either Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, representing just over one per cent of the population. This number is expected to increase to 141,200 people by 2050 – almost 2.5 per cent of the public.

The research was announced in tandem with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s annual Tea Day which took place on May 2. This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the fundraiser.

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