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Hospice care increasing for nursing home patients with dementia
Date:12/30/2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] A new study of nursing home records shows more residents with dementia are seeking a hospice benefit and using it longer. The study also estimates that 40 percent of nursing home residents die with some degree of dementia. Researchers hope the new data will help policymakers preserve the hospice benefit even as they seek to control Medicare costs.

In newly published research analyzing data on more than 3.8 million deceased nursing home residents, researchers at Brown University and Hebrew SeniorLife/Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found the proportion of residents with dementia who benefited from Medicare hospice care nearly tripled and the duration of care more than doubled between 1999 and 2006.

Because hospice care provides important medical benefits to patients with dementia, including more attentive assistance with feeding and medication, the increased use of the benefit is good news, said Brown University gerontologist Susan Miller, the study's lead author. But the data need to be considered carefully by policymakers, hospice administrators, physicians and families in the context of efforts to control Medicare costs, she said.

"Families and caregivers don't always recognize it as a terminal illness, but people die of dementia," said Miller, research associate professor of community health in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "Ideally the higher the proportion of people with dementia who are in hospice care the better because many studies have shown a benefit. But the issue is the cost and the length of stay."

The paper, published in the December issue of the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, is the first to estimate the proportion of people who die in nursing homes with mild to moderately severe or an advanced degree of dementia, an important indicator of the prevalence of the condition in nursing homes. It puts the figure at
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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