Dementia currently affects some 5 million people in the U.S., and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Having dementia affects the way you think, act, and make decisions.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers examined how often older adults who have diagnosed and undiagnosed dementia engage in potentially unsafe activities.
The researchers examined 7,609 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 to more than 90-years-old. Based on various cognitive tests, the researchers determined that 1,038 of the people they observed had probable dementia. Of that group, 457 had been diagnosed with dementia and 581 had not been diagnosed with dementia.
Nearly 1,000 participants tested as having "possible" dementia and 5,575 did not have dementia.
Of the older adults with probable dementia, the researchers learned that:
- 23 percent were still driving
- 31 percent prepared hot meals
- 22 percent managed their own finances
- 37 percent managed their own medications
- 21 percent attended doctors' appointments alone
The researchers said that people with probable dementia who had not been diagnosed were more likely to engage in potentially dangerous activities than people who had been diagnosed with dementia. They also suggest that healthcare practitioners could better address safety concerns for people with dementia if they ask older adults about the kinds of potentially unsafe activities they perform.
"Families of older adults with dementia are the best people to recognize when an activity is becoming unsafe, and should bring any concerns to their healthcare providers," said Halima Amjad, MD, MPH, study co-author and post-doctoral fellow, Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"Families can also help recognize undiagnosed dementia by reporting any changes in memory or thinking abilities in their loved one, or if they're having more difficulty performing their activities," added Dr. Amjad.
This summary is from "Potentially Unsafe Activities and Living Conditions in Older Adults with Dementia". It appears online ahead of print in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are: Halima Amjad, MD, MPH; David L. Roth, PhD; Quincy M. Samus, PhD; Sevil Yasar MD, PhD; and Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD.
About the Health in Aging Foundation
This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit http://www.