Researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden’s largest academic medical research center, along with researchers from the Netherlands, have developed a set of screening tests as a Dementia life expectancy tool that they report can accurately predict the life expectancy of a dementia patient within three years of diagnosis. The tools are intended to help healthcare providers distinguish patients who require urgent dementia care from those with more moderate needs for additional dementia monitoring. Another goal is to provide information as a basis for dialogue between healthcare providers and their patients concerning anticipated dementia progression and the patient’s risk of death.
The Dementia life expectancy tool is a series of schematic tables, basically, color-coded charts, which generate a life expectancy prediction for a particular patient based on the interplay of significant demographic and medical factors. The first type of chart, which is intended for primary care providers, is based upon four factors: sex, age, cognitive ability (derived from standardized testing) and the Charlson Comorbidity Index. Co-morbidity refers to the presence of two or more chronic conditions in an individual at the same time. The Charlson index is a tool which predicts the ten-year survival of a patient with comorbid conditions.
The second type of table in the Dementia life expectancy tool, which is intended for specialized memory care facilities, takes into account an additional factor, namely the particular dementia diagnosis that a patient has.
Dementia, also commonly called memory loss, is not one disease but rather an umbrella term for a cluster of related symptoms that can be caused by any number of underlying disease processes. Although the symptoms of dementia are typically somewhat similar regardless of the underlying diagnosis, some forms of dementia are much more aggressive and progress much more rapidly than others. Predicting the anticipated trajectory of each patient’s dementia disease process with this new Dementia life expectancy tool is essential for patients and healthcare providers alike in order to plan for the most appropriate medical treatment and for life circumstances. Some of the more common causes of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Lewy Body disease, Huntington’s disease, and stroke.
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