Senior's weakness for scams may be warning sign of dementia

FILE - In this May 19, 2015, file photo, a doctor points to PET scan results that are part of a study on Alzheimer's disease at a hospital in Washington. Scientists know that long before the memory problems of Alzheimer's become obvious, people experience more subtle changes in their thinking and judgment.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Researchers say seniors who aren't on guard against scams also might be at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

Elder fraud is a problem, and Monday's study doesn't mean that everyone who falls prey has some sort of dementia brewing. But scientists know that subtle changes in thinking and judgment appear long before Alzheimer's-caused memory loss.

Researchers at Chicago's Rush University wondered if missteps that can leave someone open to a scam might be one of those warning signs — things like finding it hard to hang up on a telemarketer.

They assessed 900 seniors for "scam awareness" and tracked them for six years. Those who had low scam awareness at the start were more likely to develop Alzheimer's or similar impairment later.

The study is in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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