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Aggressive care raises Medicare costs in end-stage dementia
Date:1/10/2011

ation between the lack of a DNH order and higher acute care expenditures supports the notion that advance care planning may be a key step toward preventing aggressive end-of-life care," says Dr. Mitchell, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Among cancer patients, advance planning lowers costs in the last week of life, and lower costs are associated with a higher quality of dying experience.

Both hospice and palliative care focus on quality of life or "comfort care," including the active management of pain and other symptoms, as well as the psychological, social and spiritual issues often experienced at the end of life. Unlike hospice, however, palliative care services do not depend on life expectancy and may be used in conjunction with curative treatments.

Estimates peg 2010 total health-care expenditures for dementia at $172 billion, which will continue to rise as the number of people experiencing the end stages of this disease increases. Currently, more than 5 million Americans suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to increase to almost 13 million in the next 40 years. Total Medicare and Medicaid payments (nursing home care is generally paid for by Medicaid after individuals have exhausted their savings) for patients with dementia are roughly three times higher than they are for those without dementia.

Dr. Mitchell's team looked at Medicare health services used by the nursing home residents over 18 months, culling data from hospital admissions, emergency department visits, primary care provider visits, and hospice enrollment. Roughly one-third of all Medicare costs for dementia were for hospitalizations, which Dr. Mitchell says are burdensome for many of these patients because, among other reasons, they involve a physical transfer and dementia patients often become even more confused and agitated in an unfamiliar environment. Previous studies by Dr. Mitchell and others have shown that most hospitalization
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Contact: Scott Edwards
edwards@hsl.harvard.edu
617-363-8309
Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research
Source:Eurekalert

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