Routine assessment predicts when Alzheimer's patients will need nursing home care, researchers repor

Clinicians can use a new assessment to determine when an Alzheimer’s patient is likely to need nursing home care, according to researchers based at Columbia University Medical Center.

The assessment was created by following two groups of about 250 Alzheimer’s patients for 10 years. Based on their analysis of these cohorts, the researchers identified 16 variables that can predict how the disease will develop.

The variables include the patient’s ability to take part in daily activities, estimated time of symptom onset and level of rigidity. A healthcare professional can gather this information in a single patient visit, the researchers noted. They also said the assessment has proven highly accurate even when not all 16 variables can be collected.

The method can be used to predict the amount of time before a senior would need assisted living or help with activities such as toileting or eating, said author Ray Razlighi, Ph.D.

Some of the researchers, including senior author Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., are now working on a computer program that would generate a report based on the assessment data entered by clinicians. They expect this to be available within two years, CUMC announced Thursday.

The full report, including the method’s formula, has been published online ahead of print in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.