Predicting the Path of Alzheimer’s Progression

November 8, 2013

If you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you know that one of the challenging aspects of the disease is the difficulty in knowing how advanced it is.

Most dementias, while they irrevocably worsen, take circuitous routes, with days and weeks where the patient seems to be improved and to have revitalized clarity.  If you know two people with the disease, the rate at which they lose cognition may seem very different, further challenging evaluation.

New research conducted by Columbia University Medical Center offers a method for predicting how long it will take for your mom or dad to need full-time care, require a move to a nursing home, and even how long until they die.

The testing procedure uses a complex model that tracks the progression of the disease that the scientists developed by studying two sets of patients for a decade.  And good news, the process requires data that can be gathered from just a single patient visit.  Over time, this can be a valuable tool for both doctors and family members.

The prediction method uses a number of measurements, such as the ability to perform day-to-day activities.  It is flexible as well, so that predictions can still be made in case some measurements cannot be obtained.

The benefits of this can be many.  First, it gives families a better understanding of how long they can expect to have their loved one with them.  It can also help in planning the type of support needed (home care vs. nursing home care) and the associated costs.  It can also prove valuable in other Alzheimer’s research by allowing scientists to more effectively group cohorts into comparable levels of disease progression.

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