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On Monday, an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine describes the results of a study looking at “scam awareness” in older adults without dementia and its relationship to new cases of Alzheimer’s dementia, MCI, and Alzheimer’s–related brain changes. The researchers from Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that cognitively normal older persons in the study who were “less aware” of potential scams were at greater risk of developing both MCI and Alzheimer’s dementia, and more likely to have Alzheimer’s–related changes in their brain.

We at the Alzheimer’s Association, Rhode Island Chapter, want to offer our perspective and an opportunity to you for follow up with us if you have more questions or want to expand further on this.

The results of this study suggest that early Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in cognitively normal older persons may cause problems with judgment and decision-making, even prior to the onset of common changes in memory and thinking abilities associated with dementia.

Because older persons, especially those at greater risk for dementia, may be more vulnerable to scams, the Alzheimer’s Association urges our community to be informed, vigilant, aware and active so that no one is subjected to this.

If people are concerned about an individual’s changes in memory or judgment, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900 or www.alz.org.

In this newly-published study of more than 900 older adults without dementia, researchers found that cognitively healthy seniors in the study who were “less aware” of potential scams were more likely to develop both mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia, and more likely to have Alzheimer’s–related changes in their brain.

According to these results, low “scam awareness” in older people may be associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s dementia or MCI in the future. This suggests that there may be alterations in judgment that happen before more severe changes in thinking or memory.

“Changes in judgment, financial ability or decision-making are often the first symptoms that family members may notice,” said McGowan. “Too often these are denied or dismissed, when they may actually be a reason to get evaluated medically.”

Having low “scam awareness” does not mean someone will develop dementia or MCI.

“Finding an association between two things is not the same as cause and effect. These tests and scores have not been proven to predict who will actually fall victim to a scam. Research is needed to create an assessment tool that is validated against real life experience.”

We don’t know yet if this kind of assessment could be valuable as a tool for early detection of Alzheimer’s dementia. More research is needed.

Please reach out to me for any follow up.

The writer is the director of public policy and media relations for the Rhode Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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