A new study from Johns Hopkins researchers is not good news, but none of it should be terribly surprising to anyone with family members who have been (or are currently) suffering from some form of dementia. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative condition that is most commonly associated with memory loss although the physical and mental ramifications of the disease go far beyond that characterization.
The study found that dementia residents who live at home have multiple needs that are simply not being met.
Dementia patients living at home lacked safety features, estate planning, proper health assessments, and meaningful activities. Caregivers lack the resources to provide constant care as well as education and support services. Researchers found that 90% of the unmet needs were safety related.
It’s possible that there is also a silver lining to this study, however.
Many of these needs and safety measures can be addressed with a minimum of cost. The study leader Betty S. Black, Ph. D, stated that covering these needs in the home may be “far more cost-effective than long-term nursing home care.”
By quantifying the most common and prevalent unmet needs, it gives many senior advocates a concrete roadmap moving forward.
In addition, the study found that more than 60% of the participants had untreated medical conditions that could eventually require the hospitalizations that often lead to long-term nursing home care.
As a nursing home lawyer, I’ve met with many nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. It’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable group of people. Nursing home residents with dementia are far more likely to be the victims of nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect because their complaints are often dismissed as imaginary.