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

40.6 percent nationwide in 2006, although that varies widely by state.

Length of stay

Miller also found wide state-by-state variations in the length of stay in hospice care. That is a key finding because Medicare requires patients to have a terminal prognosis of six months or less before they can be enrolled for the hospice benefit. Because the prognosis of someone with dementia is hard to determine so precisely, some patients with dementia have remained in hospice care for much longer than six months, Miller said, and that concerns Medicare officials who must manage costs.

While the national average length of stay for nursing home patients with advanced dementia increased from 46 days in 1999 to 118 days in 2006 still within the six-month time frame in eight states more than a quarter of such patients retained hospice care for more than six months. Oklahoma had the largest proportion of long-staying patients with 46.6 percent, followed by Alabama, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Carolina, Mississippi, Arizona, and North Dakota.

The variations revealed in the state-by-state data suggest that very long stays are not just a product of a general uncertainty about prognosis but also of very different practices in different parts of the country.

As Medicare officials consider the cost of the rising use of the hospice benefit, especially with regard to patients with dementia, Miller said she hopes they will not create "perverse financial incentives" that make it harder for patients to get care they really need. For example, physicians should not be discouraged from referring dementia patients for hospice care even though determining an exact prognosis is difficult. They should retain the latitude to act in good faith, Miller said. Meanwhile, reimbursement should be configured in such a way that it does not unduly favor short hospice stays.

"Initiatives focusing on reducing long hospice stays could disproportionate
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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