New Method Predicts Timeline When Alzheimer’s Patients Will Need Care

The findings of a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease by a team of researchers at Columbia University allow doctors to predict the time it will take for an Alzheimer’s patient to move into a nursing care setting. 

“The decline in Alzheimer’s varies from one person to another, but what we show is we can take information about a patient and based on that we can predict how long it will be until they require nursing care,” says researcher Dr. Yaakov Stern in an interview with Columbia University Medical Center News

The method used captures data from an single doctor’s visit, rather than detailed neurological information that has been relied upon in the past for similar predictions. 


“Until now, some methods of predicting the course of Alzheimer’s have required data not obtained in routine clinical practice, such as specific neuropsychological or other measurements, and have been relatively inaccurate. This method is more practical for routine use,” Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, a study co-author and associate professor of neurology in the Taub Institute and the Sergievsky Center told CUMC News. “It may become a valuable tool for both physicians and patients’ families.”

The predictions span beyond simply moving into nursing care, but also can indicate how much care, or the level of care needed. 

“In addition to time to nursing home residence or death, our method can be used to predict time to assisted living or other levels of care, such as needing help with eating or dressing, or time to incontinence,” Ray Razlighi, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at CUMC and adjunct assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University told the publication.


Currently, the time between diagnosis and death for patients diagnosed at age 80 or older is three to four years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. For those diagnosed under age 80, the life expectancy is 10 or more years. 

“We can capture with this formula who will move quickly and who will move slowly,” Stern explained.  

Read the CUMC News report.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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