Can You Have Dementia and a Gambling Problem?

Dementia is a group of conditions that alters a person’s cognitive capabilities and affects their day-to-day life. Around 1% of the United States population develops a form of dementia by age 60, making it a prevalent concern in the country and around the world. However, can you have dementia and a gambling problem at the same time?

It’s complicated. Forms of dementia and gambling problems share many similarities that can cause the former to develop the latter. Let’s review whether or not you can have dementia and gambling problems at the same time and other risk factors that can compound the issue.

Frontotemporal Dementia and Gambling Behavior

While many forms and variations of dementia are associated with memory loss, that is not always the case, and far from the only impact it can have on an individual’s behavior. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a brain condition that is caused by the continued loss of nerve cells in a person’s frontal and temporal lobes, which are important regions of the brain. Unlike other kinds of dementia, FTD can occur much sooner than other age-related brain problems, happening between the ages of 50 to 80.

The deterioration of neurons during FTD causes individuals to lose control of the functions those areas controlled. This can lead older adults who have the condition to develop compulsive behaviors, decreasing their impulse control and worsening their judgment — all of which are factors that contribute to and reinforce problem gambling behaviors. As a result, seniors who develop FTD and other kinds of dementia can become more prone to problematic gambling spending and activities.

Dementia and Gambling Problems — A Threat to the Older Generation

While there are certainly connections between dementia and gambling issues, that is far from the only reason older adults must be wary about problematic behavior. There are several other risk factors that can compound the influence FTD and other forms of dementia can have on a person’s impulse control and behavior. 

For example, studies of the prefrontal brain region have shown that the area that supports reasoning and decision-making, known as the ventromedial sector, experiences many changes in aging adults that causes a decline in those skills. Other research has found that older individuals are less capable of delaying gratification than those younger than them. These factors, in combination with FTD, are a serious concern for older generations. 

In addition, older adults are prone to having gambling problems for other reasons. Greater amounts of disposable income to spend on gambling and more free time after retirement that can be devoted to playing games may enable adults with FTD even more. These numerous problems compound with each other and put seniors who develop dementia at risk of losing lots of money and jeopardizing their financial security after retirement.

If You Know An Older Adult Struggling With Dementia and Gambling, Reach Out to 800-GAMBLER

Older adults who start to develop gambling problems because of dementia can receive helpful information and resources from 800-GAMBLER. We offer many forms of assistance to help those who develop problematic gambling behaviors, including videos on gambling, support meetings, and more. If you would like to help an older person in your life who is struggling with dementia and gambling, reach out to us today.


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