Half of all Older Adults Die With Dementia: Study

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that nearly half of all older adults die with a diagnosis of dementia on their medical records. Just two decades ago, that number was 36%, revealing that the number of people living with dementia may be increasing at an alarming rate.

According to Study Finds, the Alzheimer’s Association says that 10.7% of Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. The new report reveals that 47% of seniors die while dealing with some form of the memory-robbing disease.

The researchers examined the medical records of 3.5 million people over the age of 67 who died between 2004 and 2017. In 2004, the Medicare bills covering the last two years of their lives showed that only 35% of billing claims mentioned dementia. In 2017, that number rose to more than 47%.

The researchers noted the spike was likely due to increased awareness of the disease along with more detailed medical records and billing practices by Medicare. However, studies have estimated that the dementia rate worldwide could triple by 2050. In the US, 12.7 million people over the age of 65 could develop the devastating disease by that time.

The authors of the study that was published in JAMA Health Forum said their evidence may help older adults plan ahead for their future and talk to loved ones about end-of-life care and other healthcare issues if they contract this degenerative disease. The research found that fewer people with dementia died in a regular or ICU hospital bed during the study period. However, the percentage who received hospice services soared from 36% to 63%, keeping in line with a national trend toward more hospice care in the last few years.

“This shows we have far to go in addressing end-of-life care preferences proactively with those recently diagnosed, and their families,” said Dr. Julie Bynum, senior author of the study and a professor of geriatric medicine at Michigan Medicine, in a press release. “Where once the concern may have been underdiagnosis, now we can focus on how we use dementia diagnosis rates from everything from national budget planning to adjusting how Medicare reimburses Medicare Advantage plans.”

According to Alzheimers.net, mounting evidence shows that everyday lifestyle choices are the most important factors in reducing our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Experts say that one-third or more of the Alzheimer’s and dementia cases may be prevented by better management of lifestyle factors. The Alzheimer’s Association offers tips on ways to reduce your risk.

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