Keeping Dementia Patients Safe at Home

People with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) often better quality of life when they continue living at home, but staying at home can be a challenge for both the patient and caregiver.

Recent research presented at a scientific meeting suggests that an at-home intervention program can help to meet the needs of both patient and caregiver and extend the amount of time that AD patients can stay at home.

The study, led by Quincy Miles Samus, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, enrolled 265 patients with AD and 38 with mild cognitive impairment who were over the age of 70 and living at home.

By random assignment, patients either received care-as-usual or a care coordination intervention.

The care coordination intervention was designed to look for unmet needs, provide counseling and education about memory loss, and offer help for problem-solving.

The patients were followed for 18 months, and researchers tracked unmet needs, the amount of time it took patients to be moved to alternate living facilities, quality of life, symptoms, and depression.

They found that people who received the intervention trial had a greater decrease in unmet needs after 18 months than those in the care as usual. Safety and legal concerns, specifically, were needs that showed improvement for the people who had the intervention.

Only 30 percent of people receiving the intervention died or left their home for another living situation compared to 45.6 percent in the care-as-usual group.

People in the intervention group were more likely to continue living at home and had higher self-reports for quality of life. The intervention program did not improve symptoms of AD or depression for the patients.

For a recent conference press release, Dr. Samus said, “Our study provides promising preliminary evidence that the intervention can promote the ability to age in place and improve care quality.”

“Further work is needed to evaluate how beneficial this intervention would be in other communities, such as those who live in disadvantaged areas. Plus, we need to work out how it might be paid for, sustained, and made available to larger groups of people over the long term,” Dr. Samus said.

This study was presented on July 18 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Because this study was presented at conference, it may not have had the opportunity to be reviewed for accuracy by other experts in the field.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Memory problems are one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s. People may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. Over time, symptoms will most often get worse, and problems can include getting lost, repeating questions, and taking longer than normal to finish daily tasks. As the disease progresses, people may have trouble learning new things, recognizing family and friends, and communicating. Eventually, they need total care.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Other causes of dementia include blood-vessel disease in the brain (called vascular dementia), Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body disease.

Estimates vary, but experts suggest that as many as 5.1 million people in the United States may have Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms usually begin after age 60, and the risk of developing the disease increases with age. While younger people — in their thirties and forties — also may get Alzheimer’s disease, it is much less common. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.

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