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Criminal Behavior in Old Age May Indicate the Onset of Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 26, 2015

A recent study found that first-time criminal behavior in old age may actually be a symptom of a larger issue — a dementia diagnosis. Learn more about this study and the link between the two. 

A First Offense May be the First Sign of Dementia

A recent study from the University of California found that criminal behavior may actually be the first sign of dementia. The study observed over 2,300 people with varying forms of dementia for 13 years. Using keywords such as “shoplift,” “violence,” “DUI” and “arrest,” they found that of their participants, 8.5% had some kind of criminal activity recorded in their file. Upon further investigation they found that this type of activity was often an early sign of dementia.

Of the 8.5% that had some kind of criminal activity recorded, 64 people had frontotemporal lobe dementia, 42 had Alzheimer’s disease, 24 had primary progressive aphasia (PPA) and the rest had varying forms of dementia. Of those with frontotemporal dementia, more than 6% exhibited physical or verbal violence at some point after their diagnosis, and in 4%, violence was one of their first symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease. In all cases, men were more likely than women to urinate in public or make unwanted sexual advances.

Additionally, Alzheimer’s patients that committed criminal activity were considerably older than those with other forms of dementia. Only 2% of people with Alzheimer’s that had committed some type of crime exhibited some kind of violence during their illness.

Using Criminal Behavior to Predict Dementia

The lead author of the study, Dr. Georges Naasan of the University of California, said that it may be possible to connect new criminal activity to a larger cognitive problem, given a family history of dementia.

He went on to say: “However, most of these diseases are ‘sporadic’ — meaning they occur for no identifiable genetic cause and it is difficult to predict. In general, an early detection of changes in personality, or deviation from what constituted a “norm” for a particular individual, should prompt an evaluation for possible brain causes.”

While criminal behavior in and of itself may not be enough to cause concern, here are 10 other missed signs of dementia:

  1. Difficulty remembering things that just happened.
  2. Inability to plan or solve problems.
  3. Trouble completing familiar tasks.
  4. Losing track of dates, seasons, and time.
  5. Vision problems.
  6. Struggling with conversations.
  7. Misplacing things.
  8. Poor decision making.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Mood and personality changes.

Have you witnessed a connection between criminal activity or poor judgment in your loved one at the early stages of dementia? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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