Is impulse buying an early sign of dementia?

There are many signs that could be early warnings of dementia. Common early symptoms include memory problems, reduced concentration, behavioral changes, depression; despite these warnings, symptoms can often be mistaken for aging.

One of the biggest warning signs of dementia is how it can change one’s judgement. Little things like day-to-day habits can be affected and cause someone to have difficulty making the right choice.

Can dementia cause impulse buying?

The New York Times reported about a woman that had made several big purchases — but couldn’t remember buying any of them. From a $20,000-pickup truck on eBay to buying shoes, scrubs, and other things in bulk, the woman had no recollection of these purchases until it was explained to her later that she had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy — also known as CTE, a rare disorder that shows brain degeneration due to head traumas.

Via NYT:

Ms. Turner’s money troubles aren’t unusual among people who are beginning to experience cognitive decline. Long before they receive a dementia diagnosis, many people start losing their ability to manage their finances and make sound decisions as their memory, organizational skills and self-control falter, studies show. As people fall behind on their bills or make unwise purchases and investments, their bank balances and credit rating may take a hit.

The report shines a light on what many may not have known about dementia and money. Dementia toys with what the story calls “executive functioning” skills. These skills are often warning signs of the disease: poor planning, memory loss, and difficult judgement. When people lose their ability to manage these skills, it’s easy to understand why older people can become prone to excessive spending.

AgingCare, a website tailored to caregiving decision-making, wrote about why seniors feel so compelled to shop. Often, excessive spending can lead to hoarding — and dementia plays a role in it.

“Impaired judgement and diminishing comprehension associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can also lead to unusual impulse purchases and botched order forms,” expert Carol Bradley Bursack said.

“Dementia patients eventually lose the ability to manage their finances responsibly and understand the consequences of their spending. If no family members or friends are aware of a senior’s shopping habits, their financial situation can rapidly spin out of control, possibly decimating their savings and racking up significant debt.”

How dementia impacts your finances at home

Beyond excessive spending, Alzheimer disease can also impact routine expenses such as paying the bill on time. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people with Alzheimer disease or dementia were more prone to making financial mishaps in years prior to receiving a diagnosis.

People that were later diagnosed with ADRH were more likely to miss bill payment up to six years before their diagnosis and “develop subprime credit scores” two-and-a-half years prior to diagnosis compared to those that were never diagnosed.

“Alzheimer disease and related dementias were associated with adverse financial events years prior to clinical diagnosis that become more prevalent after diagnosis and were most common in lower-education census tracts,” researchers said.