Study Finds People with Multiple Sclerosis Experience Challenges Managing Money

Managing money is a complex, cognitively demanding task – which can present a significant challenge for people living with multiple sclerosis.

In the first-ever study examining money management in people with the central nervous system autoimmune disease, individuals with multiple sclerosis reported and demonstrated more problems managing money than those without the disease. The findings are published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Multiple sclerosis results in motor impairments, but more than half of individuals with the condition also have cognitive changes, including impairments in learning, memory, attention, and the speed with which information is processed.

Managing one’s finances is an instrumental activity of daily living that is crucial to functioning independently in society. It often involves planning (to save, spend, or invest), carrying out these plans, prioritizing, avoiding impulses, and being able to adjust plans in response to changing circumstances. Challenges with money management have been reported in patients with traumatic brain injuries, schizophrenia and other mental illness, and elderly adults, but until now, researchers have not examined money management in people with multiple sclerosis.

In the study, the researchers recruited 30 adults with multiple sclerosis and 23 adults without the disease to take a money management survey, a functional test to assess money management skills, and neuropsychological tests.

They found that participants with multiple sclerosis reported more problems managing money, and showed problems during the money management task compared with participants without multiple sclerosis.

On the money management survey, people with multiple sclerosis reported significantly more problems having debt for bills they have not paid, needing to borrow money, and using the ATM. In the money management task, the multiple sclerosis group made significantly more errors related to money management in an online task to purchase cookies, and took significantly more time to complete the activity.

“For the last 15 years, cognitive rehabilitation has been going through a gradual paradigm shift from addressing cognitive problems using artificial tasks like workbook exercises to using practical, real-world tasks,” said Yael Goverover, associate professor of occupational therapy at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author. “This study emphasizes the importance of using real-world tasks in cognitive rehabilitation for both assessing impairment and performance of critical everyday activities.”

Study coauthors include Shannon Haas of the Kessler Foundation and John DeLuca of the Kessler Foundation and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.