Will New Tool Help Dementia Patients and Their Doctors?

A new tool may help doctors predict life expectancy with dementia to enable patients and families to make important, informed decisions on long term care.

Researchers think that a new tool for dementia patients could help these individuals, as well as their care providers better communicate about the disease and risk of death and develop future care plans as it progresses by predicting life expectancy with dementia.

Dementia is a non-specific clinical syndrome that involves cognitive impairments with the level of severity to interfere with social or occupational functioning.  The disease involves at least two areas of affected cognition – memory, language, reasoning, attention, perception, or problem solving.  Memory loss by itself isn’t necessarily dementia, because there can be many causes of memory loss. Some of the most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.  Dementia may require substantial long term care, and life expectancy with dementia would be helpful for families to plan appropriately.  See here for more details.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-law-questions/

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ recent article entitled “New tool predicts life expectancy of dementia patients” reports that almost half (48%) of residents in nursing homes have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In those cases, a tool like this can be an incentive to start such a conversation, which should be held before there are too many cognitive obstacles.” said Sara Garcia-Ptacek, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.  She went on to note that this discussion could be about where someone would prefer to live, at home or in other accommodation, or anything else that needs planning.

The tool uses four characteristics to predict life expectancy: sex, age, cognitive ability and comorbidity factors.

In the intensive research, investigators tested the tool using data from more than 50,000 patients who were diagnosed with dementia between 2007 and 2015.  These researchers found that that the tool was able to predict three-year survival following a dementia diagnoses with “good accuracy.”  The new tool also found that patients who were older, male and had lower cognitive function at diagnoses were more likely to die during that time period.

Although dementia is always a difficult situation, both for the patient and the family, this tool predicting life expectancy with dementia will help everyone make more better, more informed decisions about long term care and caregiving.

Reference: McKnight’s Long-Term Care News (Jan. 26, 2020) “New tool predicts life expectancy of dementia patients”