Long-term care providers could soon have access to a newly developed tool that can accurately predict the life expectancy of dementia patients. 

Researchers believe the tool could help patients and care providers better communicate about the disease and risk of death, and develop future care plans as it progresses.  

Nearly 48% of residents in nursing homes have a diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In those cases, a tool like this can be an incentive to start such a conversation, which should be held before there are too many cognitive obstacles. This conversation could be about where someone would prefer to live, at home or in other accommodation, or anything else that needs planning,” said Sara Garcia-Ptacek, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. 

The tool uses four characteristics to predict life expectancy: sex, age, cognitive ability and comorbidity factors. Investigators tested the tool using data from more than 50,000 patients who were diagnosed with dementia between 2007 and 2015. 

Researchers found that that the tool was able to predict three-year survival following a dementia diagnoses with “good accuracy.” It also found that patients who were older, male and had lower cognitive function at diagnoses were more likely to die during that time frame.