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Financial • 4 minute read

How Financial Behavior Can Be An Early Indicator Of Dementia

How Financial Behavior Can Be An Early Indicator Of Dementia
By Kristina James
Published by Ruby

Ruby helps you and your family work together to prepare and organize finances.

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You’re with your parent at the grocery store and, when it’s time to pay at check out, he has trouble counting out his change.

You think nothing of it.

Aging experts say you should – it may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Everyone has an absent-minded moment every now and again, but when you start noticing a pattern developing with an aging parent, you need to dig deeper and look for other warning signs of memory loss.


Spotting patterns.

Aside from counting change, notice when a loved one – who previously had no trouble with these tasks – begins to have a hard time calculating a tip at a restaurant, reading a bank statement, or paying for a purchase.

Other warning signs include:

  • Unopened or unpaid bills
  • Difficulty balancing a checkbook, or checks written out of sequence
  • An unusual number of voided checks
  • Excessive or unusual purchases on a credit card
  • Overpaying or underpaying a credit card bill
  • Mixing up payments to different creditors and mailing them in the wrong envelopes
  • Unexplained or unusual withdrawals from bank accounts


The doctors see it.

Dr Jason Karwalish is considered one of the nation’s leading Alzheimer’s researchers. He’s a Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy and Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and is the Co-Director of the Penn Memory Center.

In a recent interview with ABC News he said, “There’s something about financial transactions that are so sensitive to difficulties with thinking, concentrating, paying attention, learning new information. Often they’re the first things when you look back, where the signs were there before the repetitive questions, the repetitious stories, the burned dinner, etc.”

Karlawish has even come up with a term for this, “Whealthcare” to help people realise that health and wealth go hand in hand.

He said that there needs to be more tools out there to help families spot issues before it’s already a big problem. ”There’s no reason why these errors have to be discovered by walking into a room full of fire and smoke. There should be far better alarms set-up, and even ways to predict people who might catch fire, if you will,” said Karlawish.


Stopping Fraud

One of the most dangerous consequences of early memory loss is vulnerability to scam artists. They may contact your loved one by email, telephone, or even in person. Among the dangers are identity theft, phony offers of home or car repair, bogus prizes, get-rich-quick offers, and offers of health aids such as unproven memory aids.

Read more about protecting your loved one from fraud in our articles here and here.


Help is at hand

Dr. Karlawish believes the financial services industry, especially banks, could be one of the greatest allies to help detect the early signs of memory loss because of the security checks they have built-in. If a loved one pays bills online, sometimes a security alert will pop up if the amount they pay to a certain creditor is out of line with what they normally pay. But he believes there could be more.


How Ruby Can Help

By setting up a Ruby account you can help your loved one keep their independence longer by providing that vital ‘extra set of eyes’ over their financial comings and goings. You can also help them digitally store all the important information that can slip through the cracks as they get older.

When you link your loved one’s bank accounts with Ruby, you’ll get a weekly email with summaries of what’s come in and gone out, and Ruby will send you an alert if we spot out-of-the-ordinary spending or withdrawals. Our one-view dashboard makes it easy to see all the information you need in one place, and to notice trends in both income and spending.

The Ruby Vault guides you through getting together and digitally storing (securely) all the information you need – from powers of attorney paperwork, through current medications, to the number of a helpful neighbor.


Sign up for Ruby here >>


Other ways to help

There are some other simple safeguards you can put in place at the same time, while still allowing your loved one some financial independence.

  • Reduce the spending limit on credit cards
  • Provide your loved one with a small amount of cash to have on hand
  • Handle any transfer of financial authority with respect and gentleness

At the end of the day, as difficult as it is, someone has to be the point person when faced with a loved one’s diminished capacity to handle their finances. The earlier the involvement, the least amount of damage could be done especially when a senior may have little time to recoup their losses.

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