03 Jun Older Adults with Dementia Face Potentially Unsafe Living Conditions
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Halima Amjad, MD, MPH
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Amjad: Safety is an important aspect of dementia care. Dementia is underdiagnosed, however, and there is limited understanding of safety issues in people with undiagnosed dementia. We wanted to better understand potentially unsafe activities and living conditions in all older adults with dementia and specifically examine these activities in undiagnosed dementia. We found that in all study participants with probable dementia, the prevalence of driving, cooking, managing finances, managing medications, or going to physician visits alone was over 20%. The prevalence was higher in older adults with probable dementia without a diagnosis, and even after accounting for sociodemographic, medical, and physical impairment factors, the odds of engaging in these activities was over 2.0 in undiagnosed versus diagnosed probable dementia. Potentially unsafe living conditions including unmet needs and performance on cognitive tests were similar between these groups.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: First, in older adults with probable dementia, almost everyone who was still engaged in the activities we assessed reported difficulty in an activity. Understanding not just what activities older patients are engaged in but also if they are having any difficulties might help identify which patients should undergo screening and evaluation for dementia.
Second, making an early diagnosis of dementia and communicating it clearly to patients and families may help families be more vigilant in ensuring that patients are engaging in activities they can safely conduct and help them prepare for future disability.
Lastly, providers should not assume that a patient has stopped these complex, potentially unsafe activities, such as driving, but rather specifically ask about what they are and are not doing.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Amjad: Because our study is cross-sectional and simply describes what people with dementia are doing in the community, it will be important to understand whether these activities actually lead to harm, such as motor vehicle accidents, burns, or hospitalizations. A greater understanding of older adults with undiagnosed dementia can also help determine whether early diagnosis could be beneficial in the absence of effective medical treatments for dementia.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Amjad: A dementia diagnosis does not automatically mean that a person cannot engage in complex activities. However, given inevitable disability, early diagnosis might help the front line family members understand what is to come and understand that additional support will be needed to ensure safety and help maintain an independent lifestyle as long as possible.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Halima Amjad, David L. Roth, Quincy M. Samus, Sevil Yasar, Jennifer L. Wolff. Potentially Unsafe Activities and Living Conditions of Older Adults with Dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.14164
Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.
More Medical Research Interviews on MedicalResearch.com