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What Disease Affects Nearly Half of Seniors?

The percentage of seniors who died from dementia was just 36% two decades ago. However, the 11-percentage-point increase in diagnoses doesn’t necessarily indicate that dementia is growing more prevalent in society, researchers say.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “47% of Older People Now Die With This Diagnosis” reports that three factors have raised the profile of the illness, bringing greater attention to dementia that is reflected in medical records. They are:

  1. Better public awareness about dementia
  2. More detailed medical records; and
  3. Changes in Medicare billing practices

The researchers looked at data from 3.5 million people ages 67 and older whose deaths occurred between 2004 and 2017. They paid close attention to the bills submitted to the traditional Medicare system during the patients’ last two years of life.

In 2017, more than 47% of these billing claims contained at least one mention of dementia, and 39% had at least two medical claims noting the presence of the condition.

That’s a large jump from 2004, when just 35% of those end-of-life medical records had a single mention of dementia, and 25% had two mentions.

The researchers saw that the largest jump in reported diagnoses of dementia happened when Medicare first permitted providers of medical services to list additional diagnoses on their requests for payment.

As part of their research, the study authors also found end-of-life care for those with dementia has changed. In recent years, there’s been a decline in the percentage of dementia patients who die in a regular hospital bed or ICU bed.

Fewer patients now also have a feeding tube during the last six months of their lives, and a far higher percentage of dementia patients now have access to hospice services than in the past.

As awareness of dementia continues to increase, the researchers say they hope growing numbers of older adults and their families will talk to health care providers about “the kind of care they want at the end of life, if they do develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of cognitive decline.”

Reference: Money Talks News (Aug. 8, 2022) “47% of Older People Now Die With This Diagnosis”

Suggested Key Terms: Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

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800 Village Square Crossing 
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