Sunday, November 7, 2010

A recent article in New York Times pointed out that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the largest nongovernmental regulator for securities firms doing business in the United States, recently met with individual financial services companies and the Alzheimer’s Association to formulate guidelines on how to deal with clients who have trouble remembering and reasoning, a problem that is not new but is increasing as the population ages.

The issue promises to become more complicated as doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier and earlier. If tests indicate that a person is developing dementia, does that mean the patient should be watched, or that should limits be placed on his or her abilities to make financial or legal decisions?

Financial firms are in “a dicey situation” if they have to decide whether a client can make major decisions about finances or future plans, said John M. Gannon, senior vice president for investor education with the financial regulatory agency. And yet, according to research by Daniel C. Marson, a neuropsychologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, confusion over money and finances is perhaps the most important and most predictable early functional change as people descend into dementia.

This makes sense because managing finances requires long range planning, risk evaluation, a varying degrees of arithmetic skill, all of which are brain functions lost with the varying forms of dementia.

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