70 percent of residents in assisted living have dementia, only a minority are in special care units, study finds

By |2019-11-27T21:51:31+00:00April 9, 2019|
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A study published in 2014 found that more than 70 percent of residents living in assisted living have some form of dementia, with only a minority of residents residing in special care units where admission and discharge policies are more supportive of their needs. In some assisted living communities, upwards of 90 percent of residents have some form of cognitive impairment.1 The study compiled data from the 2010 National Survey of Residential Care in conjunction with staff interviews in approximately 2,300 assisted living residences.

It is important to highlight that many residents were not recognized by staff as having dementia, implying that resident charts may not be sufficient in identifying dementia. The study also found that 69 percent of assisted living residences treat dementia behavior symptoms by administering psychotropic medications, while other studies suggest that quality of care can reduce the need for medical intervention.1,2

“Dementia Prevalence and Care in Assisted Living” offers several insights into the current care and treatment options for residents in assisted living facilities. These findings have implications for the practices and policies currently in place for dementia care and show that assisted living residences have assumed an important role in long-term care of people living with dementia.  Suggestions include improving staff training, evaluating alternatives to medical intervention to treat dementia symptoms and providing readily available educational materials to prospective residents.

The rate of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia is estimated to increase 3.3% by 2060, and at this rate 13.9 million Americans are projected to have the disease.3 As the population ages, the increasing number of dementia cases has extensive societal and economic implications with current models of care unprepared to treat residents at this scale. With the majority of residents with dementia expected to receive care outside specialized care units, dementia-capable care will need to be deployed at a larger scale with standardized training for providers. The authors suggest Assisted Living communities will need to better align their care models to recognize, treat and manage residents with dementia.

We encourage all readers to review the full publication here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24711328

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  1. Zimmerman, S., Sloane, P. D., & Reed, D. (2014, April). Dementia prevalence and care in assisted living. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24711328
  2. Epperly T, Dunay MA, Boice JL. Alzheimer disease: Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies for cognitive and functional symptoms. Am Fam Physician. 2017;95:771–778.
  3. Matthews KA, Xu W, Gaglioti AH, Holt JB, Croft JB, Mack D et al (2018) Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the United States (2015–2060) in adults aged ≥65 years. Alzheimers Dement. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.3063