Individuals with dementia are more likely to be living at home when they pass away rather than in a nursing home, according to new research from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University. This contradicts the widely held view that most people with dementia in the United States eventually live and die in nursing homes.
This is the first study to follow individuals with dementia until death regardless of whether they died from dementia or another condition. In fact, most people with dementia, even advanced dementia, die from a physical condition such as cancer, heart disease or pneumonia.
The study tracked individuals with dementia to determine where they received care and in what order. Instead of finding these patients moving directly from home to hospital to nursing home as presumed, the researchers discovered that many individuals with dementia go back and forth. Transitions in care are numerous and follow no set path.
“This is a study on what it is like to live with dementia over a five- to 10-year period,” said Regenstrief Institute investigator Christopher Callahan, M.D., Cornelius and Yvonne Pettinga Professor in Aging Research at Indiana University School of Medicine and director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.
“You probably won’t proceed on a straight line from home to hospital to nursing home. You will experience multiple transitions as you progress from mild to moderate to advanced dementia.”
Although 74 percent of the time dementia patients go to a nursing home after being hospitalized, they typically don’t stay there. Only about a quarter will return to the hospital in less than a month. Many of the remainder will go back home.
The researchers found that a majority of care for those with dementia, even severe dementia, is provided by families.
“These results challenge previous assumptions,” said Callahan, who founded the IU Center for Aging Research in 1997.
“Our findings will provide important information for all those concerned with managing the care of older adults — families, physicians, social workers, policy-makers, Medicare and Medicaid, insurance companies, hospital and nursing home administrators, as well as aging individuals. Caring for people living with dementia requires the attention of our entire health care system.”
The research appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Source: Indiana University