Apathy in nursing home residents linked with increased mortality risk, study shows

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Long-term care providers should consider screening residents for apathy, according to researchers who found that individuals with a lack of motivation or goals could be at higher risk for death.

For a report published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Dutch researchers studied more than 700 nursing home patients using a 10-point Apathy Evaluation Scale. The team also screened residents for depression as a control.

Researchers found that residents who displayed a lack of motivated, goal-oriented behavior, cognition and interest in activities of daily living had a higher risk of mortality over a four-month period. The study also showed that apathy was present in half of the residents screened.

Those findings suggest that providers should develop treatment strategies and screening procedures for nursing home residents displaying apathy, researchers said.

“The presence of apathy in nursing home patients should get more attention in daily care,” said lead researcher Johanna Nijsten, MSc. “Patients, family and staff need to establish goals of care to improve quality of life and advanced care planning, in the context of decreased life expectancy.”