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Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Declining mental capacity may impact your or a family member’s independence in later years. Increasingly common, a dementia diagnosis can be financially devastating.

Following a dementia diagnosis


Life expectancy1


Incremental annual
per-person cost of care2

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, affecting over five million Americans, and the numbers are growing. Projections show that the condition is expected to impact 16 million Americans by the middle of this century.

Impact on women

Cognitive decline disproportionately impacts women, who make up nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients and represent 60 percent of the caregivers.

While there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s yet, managing quality of life and protecting seniors requires recognition of the issue and a plan to take action.

after age 65

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Warning signs

Dementia can be tough to discern from simple memory lapses or forgetfulness as we age. Changes may be subtle and vague and increase slowly over long periods. Often changes in one’s ability to handle financial matters are an early indicator of a problem.

Experts list several warning signs that may signal its onset:

  • Disorientation, getting lost even in familiar places and difficulty understanding spatial relationships
  • Difficulty with everyday tasks like preparing a meal or balancing a checkbook
  • Mood and personality changes or swings that impact social interactions
  • Poor judgment with everyday tasks like dressing for the weather

Prevention management

Increasing evidence points to a possible ability to delay the onset of dementia or improve one’s ability to manage a decline. Scientists tell us that aerobic exercise, sleep, hygiene and cardiovascular factors all play a role.

Additionally, living with a purpose and learning new things later in life can help us build the brain like a muscle, increasing its capacity to respond to aging.

Protecting the vulnerable

Dementia or decreased mental capacity can lead to serious financial missteps and make seniors with dementia frequent targets of fraud and financial abuse.

Warning signs include a sudden change in financial or caregiver relationship, unfamiliar credit card transactions, unexplained money transfers or withdrawals, and changes in the mailing address for financial documents.

Prevention involves asking a family member or friend to review financial statements and transactions on a regular basis. It also includes providing your financial institution with a trusted contact, which helps facilitate discussions in cases where there is suspected fraud or a decline in judgement due to memory decline.

Once a diagnosis is made, a plan for protecting assets and safely transitioning financial and legal capacity should be put into motion.

Take action
  • Understand the early warning signs of dementia, and be proactive
  • If you have concerns about your own or a family member's ability to manage finances, contact the appropriate financial and legal professionals
  • Ensure loved ones have a power of attorney, an advance health care directive and a trust in place to address care and financial matters as the disease progresses
  • Update your financial plan to include additional funding and care needs

Read more from our RBC Wealth Insights report Taking control of health care in retirement

1. People with dementia have shortened life expectancies, Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research, 2008.
2. 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s Association, 2017.
3. Alzheimer’s Facts, Alzheimer’s Association, 2017.