Are Older People Aware of Their Cognitive Decline?

My mum was diagnosed with AD a couple of years after she began exhibiting symptoms, but at the time we attributed them to other things. So easy to explain away.

I did her taxes and noticed a real deterioration way she filed financial documents, an unusual change in her spending, and a big change in her meal prep. Some local charities also noticed, and began collecting donations in person, and the local office of a national Financial Advisor business also was making house calls, which continued even after I confronted them. They were real predators and only stopped after I sent written notice.

At the time she had no idea or awareness her cognitive skills were deteriorating. It’s pretty clear her social skills were still much stronger and her financial skills failing rapidly.
Very informative thread. Thanks for sharing it.
 
I have told my wife and kids that if anything gives them cause to be concerned about my ability to manage my wife and my financial affairs, which I do directly, with my wife's constant involvement, agreement and appreciation, but which she does not "enjoy" and has no interest in doing if I am unable, they MUST engage with me to discuss it. I have assured them that there will be no anger and no recriminations. Sit me down and tell me what you see and why it concerns you.

If, for some reason, including death or other sudden medical incapacity, I am unable to continue to manage the money, and there has been no planned transition effected yet, both my wife and my most financially inclined child, have already been instructed to head straight to a CFA and lawyer of their choosing to do the necessary.

Now, I don't want to talk about this anymore! I have just retired and thoughts of the issues that might lead to the necessity of this discussion are supplanting the issues that I used to ponder around the planning for retirement. Having crossed the massive retirement timing hurdle, my thoughts go to the next thing for which I must assess and plan for. "Overthinking" (because that is how people like to tag it) is both a gift and a curse. This is fodder for a different thread.
 
My mom is 77 and my mother-in-law is 85(?). Both show obvious declines in their mental abilities, though the changes are minor and I don't know if either of them is aware of them. In some ways they both seem child like in their mental thinking, my mom probably more so.

I just assume my time is coming and I may not recognize the changes over time. Like others here I have been trying to simplify my accounts and reduce the number of accounts we have. I have also been documenting everything as much as I can so my wife or daughter can step in if I die or decline mentally. I'm sure I'm still missing a lot, it's amazing how many things you do on a daily basis without really giving it much thought.

I also realize I am not immune to being scammed, regardless of my mental capacity. So I have a few hard rules like NEVER buying anything that is solicited to me. Phone call, email, junk mail, text, doesn't matter. Whatever you're selling, I'm not buying. Period. If your product or service sounds interesting I'll do the research myself. It's not 100% foolproof, but it works well for me (so far....).

Even at 60 years old I can tell my mental capacity isn't what it used to be. Mostly very minor changes, like forgetting simple things I should know, but I still notice the difference.
 
I worry more about their health and happiness than their financial abilities, but finances have long been a topic of discussion back from when we were basically planning retirement within a few years of them.

My parents are 77 and 79. They aren't declined so much, but Dad is slower, quieter, more introspect, more likely to talk about the past than before, and to go with the flow. Not much more, but a bit.

Mum is still very chatty, but seems to get aggravated and worked up more easily than before. She was always high strung, but now when those things are the only event of the day, they seem to be amplified. IE, a rude desk clerk at a doctors office when you are working full time, and leading a busy life, eh, you move on. With Mum now that's an Event with a capital E, since that's likely the only thing that day outside the home, and we'll get the play-by-play story, probably twice... Of course she is very quick to point out when others repeat a story, or interrupt her, but doesn't seem have that self-awareness.

I worry that she won't have much patience with Dad if he declines first...
 
Luckily no one had dementia in my family and all were sharp handling their own finances until the end. Obviously that’s no guarantee it won’t happen to me. My oldest son knows where all my stuff is located so he can take over if necessary.
 
My mom is 77 and my mother-in-law is 85(?). Both show obvious declines in their mental abilities, though the changes are minor and I don't know if either of them is aware of them. In some ways they both seem child like in their mental thinking, my mom probably more so.

I just assume my time is coming and I may not recognize the changes over time. Like others here I have been trying to simplify my accounts and reduce the number of accounts we have. I have also been documenting everything as much as I can so my wife or daughter can step in if I die or decline mentally. I'm sure I'm still missing a lot, it's amazing how many things you do on a daily basis without really giving it much thought.

I also realize I am not immune to being scammed, regardless of my mental capacity. So I have a few hard rules like NEVER buying anything that is solicited to me. Phone call, email, junk mail, text, doesn't matter. Whatever you're selling, I'm not buying. Period. If your product or service sounds interesting I'll do the research myself. It's not 100% foolproof, but it works well for me (so far....).

Even at 60 years old I can tell my mental capacity isn't what it used to be. Mostly very minor changes, like forgetting simple things I should know, but I still notice the difference.

EXACTLY. This is great advice for people of all ages and capacities. If you need something, go find it. The world has made it so easy for anyone to do their own product, price, and quality (reviews, network checks) discovery, one should always consider what those who are pushing a product or service through active and aggressive solicitation are really doing.

There was a time when the Fuller Brush, Avon, Rubbermaid, and "Vacuum" types of solicitation added value, but that has long passed.

The financial abuse perpetrated on the those who are the most trusting (apart from children), kind and helpful individuals in society, has always stirred great emotions in me so if this comes across as a little "hot", it is.
 
At 68 I’m worried about this. My paternal grandmother had dementia. My parents died too young to know. No idea about my paternal grandfather and may maternal grandparents died too young.
I’m absolutely more forgetful than I was just a few years ago. My neurologist suggested some testing, but I put it off. May need to bring it up again soon.
I’ve read in my financially savvy son on our financials and keep my intelligent but uninterested DW informed. We’ve also set up Charles Schwab Trust Company as trustee when are both gone or incompetent/incapacitated.
I’ve worked to simplify our accounts some, but have a way to go. We won’t be selling individual stocks in our highly appreciated taxable account. My sons know they’ll be stepped up upon our demise.
Growing old stinks, but it’s better than the alternative.
 
My mum was diagnosed with AD a couple of years after she began exhibiting symptoms, but at the time we attributed them to other things. So easy to explain away.

I did her taxes and noticed a real deterioration way she filed financial documents, an unusual change in her spending, and a big change in her meal prep. Some local charities also noticed, and began collecting donations in person, and the local office of a national Financial Advisor business also was making house calls, which continued even after I confronted them. They were real predators and only stopped after I sent written notice.

At the time she had no idea or awareness her cognitive skills were deteriorating. It’s pretty clear her social skills were still much stronger and her financial skills failing rapidly.
Man, I am getting hot just reading this. If this ever happened to someone I cared about, I would need to be accompanied on any physical visit that was necessary to deal with the behaviour.
 
If, for some reason, including death or other sudden medical incapacity, I am unable to continue to manage the money, and there has been no planned transition effected yet, both my wife and my most financially inclined child, have already been instructed to head straight to a CFA and lawyer of their choosing to do the necessary.

My Dad signed a GDPOA years before we needed it. The clear understanding was to not use it until appropriate. At first we used it out of convenience occasionally (like he had trouble doing the "tip math" and seeing the tiny numbers on the CC slip when we went out to dinner, so he let me do the math and sign for him), then it shifted slowly but surely towards a necessity over the course of a couple of years.

If one does not have a (GD)POA in place ahead of time, then the main alternative is a conservatorship, because an incompetent person can't sign a POA. Conservatorships are more costly, time consuming, and can involve court supervision which in my Dad's case would have been unnecessary and more hassle for me. I think they should be avoided if possible.

I may have misread or misunderstood your situation, @Aramis, but you might want to consider getting the GDPOA in place now in case you need it but don't know you do. It obviously involves trusting the person you name as POA (probably your child) to not take advantage, but it sounds like that's not a problem for you.
 
I'm only 63 and even though I still handle all the finances and many other things, I definitely notice a decline in my mental acuity. I'm just not as sharp as I used to be. Forgeting simple things now and then and making the occasional math error. Things the younger version of myself would never do. I used to be able to mentally juggle several things at a time. Now, not so much. One problem is I don't sleep as soundly as I used to, often awake for hours in the middle if the night. Knowing that I'm not 100 percent, 100 percent of the time is a bit of self awareness so yes, I'm aware of a degree of cognitive decline.
 
I'm 67 and still working in an intensely technical engineering and software environment. The amount of intellectual capital in this environment is very high. I plan to retire in Sept/Oct 2025, however if any cognitive decline that affects my work performance happens I will pull the plug immediately, if not sooner. I watched an older colleague retire in his 70s 10 years ago. His cognitive abilities were still acceptable but two things stood out, first his stubbornness to accept new ideas from younger peers and second was his reminiscing about previous things in his career when "things were better." I go out of my way to listen and converse with younger peers, in fact I had a wonderful discussion with an intern this week who is quite knowledgeable and more than willing to talk with someone old enough to be his grandfather. I've been giving him pointers on how to polish his technical presentations as I am one of a team who evaluates intern performance for future hire candidates. I'm relatively fit looking, keep my hair cut and trimmed and wear jeans and t-shirts to the office as I did my entire career. My grooming is OK in my opinion so I don't have many of the "old guy" characteristics that many of my older peers have. I still move around fairly well, have a full head of hair with grey on the sides so I'm lucky for that. In other words, there is not much to indicate a first impression of being an old fart.

I am continuously testing myself mentally to detect cognitive decline. My memory is getting worse but nothing that stands out too badly, I just don't have the same accuity I had 40 years ago. I am always writing code at home and at work and I think my code, while not as elegant as I would like, is still competent and passes code reviews just fine. I feel at some point this is going to deteriorate and I want to have enough self-awareness to realize it.

I fear a lack of self-awareness more than anything else when the inevitable happens. Regarding finances I've been simplifying and concentrating our assets in Vanguard, just folded 3 funds into 1 (Vanguard 500 which is now a significant chunk of our Vanguard holdings). I have 2 significant holdings in stock and 3 in mutual funds that I plan to roll over into Vanguard 500 once my earned income reduces to zero in 2026. My endgame is to have the bulk of our equities in SPY and Vanguard 500 and the bulk of our fixed income in short term zero coupon treasuries. Currently have about 3 years cash on hand and would like to get that up to 5 years cash (about 1M, 200K/year). SPY and other 500 funds throw off about 2% give or take so we are fine in terms of cash flow.

Hopefully, when the inevitable happens, being on autopilot with respect to the portfolio should be another thing that I don't need to worry about. Wife is disinterested but she does recognize the simplification that's happening and understand my strategy. She knows how to get to every asset if I checked out suddenly so no chance of losing something in the weeds. Still finishing our death book and still need to update our family trust.
 
Posted this before:
at 70+ I notice I'm not as sharp, a couple years back I ment to sell and somehow hit buy, turned the trade around in less than a minute and, hey, made $22. More importantly made the discovery that maybe I'm not as sharp as I think I am.
 
Watched this with my MIL. They weren't big investors - CD's mainly. FIL handled those. MIL handled bills and the first sign that there was something going on is when mistakes started being made with missed bills and wrong amounts... She, her twin sister, an aunt and a brother all succumbed to Alzheimers. FIL cancelled LTCi only a couple of years before the diagnosis and it was financially devestating. We purchased LTCi ourselves at around age 50. Nothing like this in my family so you never know, but we both have coverage now.

Cheers.
 
My mom has dementia, as did her brother. Hers is a long, drawn out affair that started being obvious 10 years ago. She’s 86 now. My uncles came in fast, and he was gone in less than two years. Bigger than life guy, Hollywood actor and national VP of the screen actors guild. Gone in two years. Hard to bear, but there it is. I too have an intense engineering robotics job. On the go constantly and always jousting with the to get folks on my team. It keeps me sharp but still, I do forget things. It’s part of the aging process I believe. It does not mean you have dementia if you are a bit forgetful. If you look in the mirror one day and don’t recognize yourself, this is a good sign something is brewing!!
 
“Are Older People Aware of Their Cognitive Decline?"

As for myself, I used to know the answer to that question but at the moment I can't remember it.
 
“Are Older People Aware of Their Cognitive Decline?"

As for myself, I used to know the answer to that question but at the moment I can't remember it.
Yeah pretty much.

I strongly suspect most people aren’t.

And those who tell their kids they won’t get angry when told they have declined mentally and need help, unfortunately from what I’ve read many folks become angrier as part of their dementia. There must be a lot of frustration and even fear that they experience along with their confusion. Stubbornness, a strong need to cling to the old ways. Also personality change in general is not uncommon.
 
My 92 year old mom has Alzheimers. Fortunately about 4 years ago she noticed that her memory was declining and turned all her finances over to me as her POA. Even now she is aware that her memory is becoming worse and is very concerned. The best thing she did was move into a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) many years ago. She was able to stay in her independent living apartment with caregivers furnished by the CCRC until recently. Now she resides in the memory care/skilled nursing section of the CCRC. What a blessing it has been to my mother to have the care of a great CCRC.
 
My 92 year old mom has Alzheimers. Fortunately about 4 years ago she noticed that her memory was declining and turned all her finances over to me as her POA.
My mom had a stroke back in 2017 and turned everything over to me as her POA as well. She has made a remarkable recovery from where she started, but I still don't think she would have the mental capacity to deal with her own finances. Even with simple things she sometimes gets really confused. We hadn't seen each other in over 20 years before her stroke, so I can't say how much was due to her stroke and how much was just her normal decline from aging.
 
This is a really interesting paper. “Are Older People Aware of Their Cognitive Decline? Misperception and Financial Decision Making” (link here) It makes the case that people unaware of their cognitive decline suffer greater financial losses than people aware they have cognitive loss. People unaware of their own loss make poorer choices and are more easily taken advantage of by others, including family.

That conclusion makes sense but it shifts the focus away from actual cognitive loss and emphasizes the awareness. It reinforces the benefit of having a social network, because friends are more likely to be aware of the cognitive loss before anyone else. It points to the advantage of having a simple portfolio that is easy to manage. Finally, it does suggest seniors should be more aware of their cognitive health and review their options while they are still healthy.
My mother went from day trading to not being able to pay a bill overnight (stroke). She would admit to cognitive issues but it took 4 months for her to accept that I had to take over her finances. So awareness still doesn't mean willingness. It was fortunate she had set up autopay for a lot of her key bills. That's my advice, automate everything you can ahead of time.
 
95 yo MIL thinks she is balancing her checkbook. But she only enters the checks she writes. She doesn't enter automatic deposits or automatic payments that DW has set up. MIL can look at her check register for hours and not understand why her balance doesn't match the bank statement. But she is happy that the bank statement has a higher balance than what she calculates.

Recently she quit doing the math to compute the balance. I think she forgot how to do the math. (DW has the real check register - DW gave MIL a copy to play with)
 
95 yo MIL thinks she is balancing her checkbook. But she only enters the checks she writes. She doesn't enter automatic deposits or automatic payments that DW has set up. MIL can look at her check register for hours and not understand why her balance doesn't match the bank statement. But she is happy that the bank statement has a higher balance than what she calculates.

Recently she quit doing the math to compute the balance. I think she forgot how to do the math. (DW has the real check register - DW gave MIL a copy to play with)
I quit balancing my checkbook maybe twenty years ago or more. At 74, I think I'm still 100% cognitive, but who really knows?
 
I remember when @Nords was posting about his father's dementia, financial stuff, conservatorship process. One of the things he spotted, after the fact, was that his dad had bought several bad annuities. The salesperson knew his dad was in decline, and preyed on him.

I tried to access the link, but it didn't work for me.
Here's the details, @rodi:

I've posted this link before, but we've planned extensively for our family disability. (Comparatively, death is easy.) Our daughter holds our co-trustee powers, our DPOA, and our beneficiary designations:

Five years later, everyone's even more comfortable with the plan-- and we discuss it at least quarterly so that we're all on the same page.
 
What does a person do who is well into their 70s, finding they are slowly declining in their mental abilities, and have no family left or close friends to help with their finances or everyday activities. I bet there are many who eventually find themselves in this quandary.
 
I quit balancing my checkbook maybe twenty years ago or more. At 74, I think I'm still 100% cognitive, but who really knows?
Haha. I don't balance my checkbook either but only write ~6 checks a year.
 
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