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Dementia patients face burdensome transitions in last 90 days
Date:9/28/2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] A new study in the Sept. 29, 2011, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that nearly one in five nursing home residents with advanced dementia experiences burdensome transitions in the last 90 days of life, such as moving to a different facility in the last three days of life or repeat hospitalizations for expected complications of dementia in the last 90 days of life.

"Such patterns of transitions are burdensome, particularly since the overwhelming majority of family members state the main goal of care is comfort," said study co-author Joan Teno, professor of health policy and practice at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a palliative care physician. "These transitions reflect the inefficiency of our health care system. Similar outcomes could be achieved by keeping these patients in the nursing home setting."

An important reason for the prevalence of burdensome transitions might be embedded in the way Medicare pays nursing homes, said Brown health economist and lead author Pedro Gozalo. Nursing homes can earn higher payments for patients who have been transferred to a hospital for three days and they may qualify for skilled nursing services paid by Medicare rather than Medicaid upon their return. The current incentives under Medicare and Medicaid encourage nursing homes to send patients to the hospital, he said.

What makes the transitions burdensome, especially for patients with cognitive impairment, Teno said, is that they are often unnecessary, raise the risk of medical errors, and interrupt continuity of care for patients who can experience significant stress and disorientation when they are suddenly removed from familiar surroundings and people. When the patients become upset, their families experience more stress.

Because these financial incentives, market conditions, and the culture of end-of-life care vary by state, so do the rates of
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-527-2525
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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