A Gentler Approach to Dementia

Focus on comfort is more beneficial for advanced dementia patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A study by the Institute of Aging Research suggests that treating the symptoms and stress associated with advanced dementia may be more efficient than aggressive treatment for the illness.

Dementia is a blanket term that refers to different brain disorders that affect cognitive ability and memory. The most common is Alzheimer's disease, which affects 5.3 million people in the United States.

The cost of caring for patients with advanced dementia generally goes to aggressive treatments of the illness. However, a study from the Institute of Aging Research suggests that redirecting funds to palliative care (treating only the symptoms) is a more effective plan for advanced dementia patients.

By reviewing the Medicare costs for 323 nursing home residents with advanced dementia, researchers found that a large percentage of spending went towards services in hospital and transitional services designed to provide continued assistance in nursing homes. These may be avoidable because they are not certain to improve a patient's clinical outcome.

Ten percent of costs go to rehabilitation facilities where patients go after being in the hospital, but the need for these stays is questionable.

One proposed plan to make the quality of life better for patients with this terminal illness is to focus on comfort and hospice care. Hospitalizations often lead to discomfort and confusion for dementia patients, while hospice care has proven beneficial for patients dying with dementia.

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Review Date: 
January 12, 2011
Last Updated:
January 12, 2011