Nursing home dementia residents staying in hospice longer, analysis says

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Nursing home dementia residents staying in hospice longer, analysis says
Nursing home dementia residents staying in hospice longer, analysis says

[Editor's note: A technical error occurred earlier that prevented readers from opening this story. It has been fixed.] 

An analysis of nursing home records found that dementia patients are increasingly using hospice care benefits. It also revealed that 40% of nursing home residents suffer from some degree of dementia at their time of death.

This study is the first to estimate the percentage of people who die in nursing homes with mild to moderately severe or an advanced degree of dementia. Results were published in the December issue of the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. The Alzheimer's Association and the National Institute on Aging funded the study.

The study's authors, who were pleased to see that more dementia patients are using hospice and using it longer, worry that Medicare policymakers will see this as a reason to cut costs, lead researcher Susan Miller said in a statement. She added that while people die of dementia, caregivers and family members don't always recognize it as a terminal illness.

“Initiatives focusing on reducing long hospice stays could disproportionately and adversely affect the timing of hospice referral for persons with dementia,” Miller and co-authors, Julie Lima and Susan Mitchell, wrote. “It is critical that the creation of any new policy explicitly consider the challenges inherent in the timing of hospice referral for nursing home residents dying with dementia.”