The study, published Monday in the medical journal JAMA, looked at Medicare patients living alone across the United States and analyzed their credit data and payments over time.
Researchers found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia were more likely to miss payments up to six years before getting diagnosed, the study said. And, those poor financial actions led them to subprime credit scores two and a half years before diagnosis, as opposed to the patients without dementia.
“I think we were a little surprised that it was so common that we could really see it in the data,” lead author Lauren Hersch Nicholas told CNN. “Doctors colloquially say that you should look for dementia in the checkbook, but I don’t think we had any sense of for how many years in advance these effects could be happening.”
Nicholas is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors led the study.
Alzheimer’s dementia affects about 5.8 million Americans who are 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The number of Americans with the disease is projected to hit 13.8 million by 2050, the non-profit said.