November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. When my mother started exhibiting the early signs of Alzheimer’s, I wasn’t aware that her lapses in memory were the beginning stages of a disease that has gripped her for more than 10 years now.

In fact, I initially thought that she was asking the same questions over and over because of hearing loss from a tumor that she had behind her left ear. I didn’t want to believe that my mom was starting to lose her memory in her early 60s. That was something that happened to people who were much older, I told myself.

But one night while I was at her house, it became painfully obvious that her hearing loss wasn’t the problem.

My mom asked me if I wanted to see a new bench she had bought for her patio. We went outside, looked at the bench, then went back in and started talking. Within a few minutes, she asked, “Do you want to see the new bench I got for my patio?” My heart sank.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. As I learned, the early signs of the disease can be easy to miss.

However, it’s so important not to write off the lapses in a parent or loved one’s memory as just part of the aging process. That’s because Alzheimer’s and dementia can lead to problems managing money and making financial decisions.

Certainly, you don’t want to see your parents put themselves into financial dire straits or become victims of financial fraud. But these scenarios could easily become reality if you don’t recognize the signs that your parents need help with their finances. Here are five red flags that dementia could be affecting your parents’ ability to manage their money.

They’re Getting Lots of Donation Requests

When visiting with your parents, pay attention to their mail. Is it full of donation requests, sweepstakes entry forms and other solicitations? Do you see numerous “thank you” gifts from organizations around their house – calendars, notepads, pens, stickers, mailing address labels?

My mom was writing checks left and right to organizations to which she had no connection simply because they asked, and she was losing her ability to make smart money decisions. To prevent her from giving away all of her money, I offered to go through her mail for her to weed out the junk. If you don’t live close enough to your parents to do that, talk to them about their giving. Help them come up with a list of a few organizations they truly care about and want to support. Then encourage them to toss requests from any organization that isn’t on their list.

They Have Piles of Unpaid Bills or Collection Notices

If your parents have the financial means to pay their bills, it should set off alarm bells if you see bills piling up at their house – or, worse, collection notices. One of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease is the inability to keep track of monthly bills, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

You can help your parents stay on top of their bills by offering to help them set up automatic bill payment. When you do this, though, don’t embarrass them by pointing out that they’re falling behind on bill payments. Instead, highlight the benefits of automatic bill pay, and tell them it will take a time-consuming task off their to-do list so they’ll have more time to do things they enjoy.

They’re Having Trouble Writing Checks

You might be thinking, “Who even still pays with checks?” Your parents might. If they do, pay attention when they’re writing one to pick up the tab if they take you out to dinner, to pay their bills or make purchases. Do they struggle to remember the date or fill out the check correctly? Or maybe you’ve noticed that they have trouble calculating a tip or remembering the PIN for their debit card.

Difficulty dealing with numbers and remembering dates are early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If you see that this has become a problem for your parents, don’t wait for it to get worse before stepping in and offering to help them with financial tasks.

They’ve Gone From Organized to Disorganized

Pay attention when visiting your parents to whether drawers and closets that once were organized are now overflowing with stuff. Is their once tidy home now filled with piles of dirty dishes in the kitchen, unwashed clothes strewn about the bedroom and stacks of bills and documents on the dining room table?

With Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult to complete familiar tasks such as cleaning. If your parents can’t manage to stay organized or keep their house tidy anymore, they probably are having problems staying on top of their finances, too.

They Have Reminder Notes Everywhere

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, my mom would scribble reminders to herself not just on her calendar, but on all sorts of scrap pieces of paper. These wouldn’t just be reminders of appointments – which we all need help remembering. She would write down the birthdates of family members, the name of the president and other important facts she didn’t want to forget.

A friend of mine I interviewed for my book – Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances – said his dad had posted memos to himself around his house during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing these sort of reminders that your parents have left for themselves should be a red flag that their memory loss is becoming a problem. It’s a problem you can’t ignore.

If you haven’t already had conversations with your parents about their finances, you need to start talking if they are showing any of these signs. Even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, your parents’ ability to manage their money can be impacted and can lead to serious financial troubles.

As I’ve written before, one of my biggest regrets is not talking to my mom about her finances before she started having memory problems. Visit to learn more about the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Then start talking with your parents to make a plan for how you can help them with money tasks to protect their financial well-being.