Meanwhile, a study that appeared last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers a solution to the problem encountered by people with Alzheimer’s disease who do not receive the hospice services they need because those programs are reserved for people with only six months to live.
Geriatrician Susan Mitchell of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged in Boston and her colleagues have developed a tool for predicting how long people with advanced dementia will live. Mitchell's model is based on 12 risk factors, such as cancer, a need for oxygen therapy, and being older than 83. The more factors the patients had, the greater their chance of dying within 6 months.
Even with this new tool, figuring out when a patient is going to die still remains "more of an art than a science," says Stephen Connor, vice president for research and development at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Alexandria, Virginia. Nevertheless, Mitchell's approach, which relies on precise and easily obtainable data, has proven more accurate in estimating 6-month mortality than current guidelines for assessing hospice eligibility for dementia patients, which are based more on expert opinion.
Mitchell's study also stands to benefit family members--by giving them access to the support and counseling services hospices offer, says Naomi Naierman, president and CEO of the American Hospice Foundation in Washington, D.C. And knowing when someone is likely to die allows for end-of-life planning, in which all involved can prepare emotionally, spiritually, and financially. The information could also help physicians better treat those patients, allowing them to concentrate on providing palliative care to ensure comfort rather than pursuing aggressive treatment.
Moreover, “The Female Patient,” a monthly peer- reviewed journal in Chatham, New Jersey released an issue of the journal entitled “The Aging Female Patient.” This article offers specific advice for doctors who diagnose and treat well-known aging disorders including heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, and sleep disturbances. Experts also address less reported, but equally vital, concerns, such as assessing a patient's ability to continue driving a car as well as managing menopause in patients with cancer. Furthermore, experts claim that the issue will give people an overview of several areas that related to aging and loss, and gives up-to-date knowledge and skills to assist in the task of providing sound advice and treatment in the care of elderly female patients.