LOS ANGELES (CN) – A study released Friday found that placing people living with dementia in care programs significantly decreased their likelihood of entering a nursing home.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, also found that care programs saved Medicare an average of $2,400 per year and were cost-neutral after accounting for program costs.
The study, conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles, evaluated the long-term financial benefits of placing people with dementia in care programs instead of treating them during hospitalizations, emergency room visits and long-term nursing home placements.
“The findings of this study show that a health care system-based comprehensive dementia care program can keep persons with dementia in their homes and in the community without any additional cost to Medicare,” said UCLA’s David Reuben in an analysis of the study’s results.
As part of the study, people with dementia and their caregivers met with a nurse who prescribed a care plan addressing the medical, mental health and social needs of caretakers and care recipients.
The nurse then worked with primary care providers and specialists to implement the care plan.
Researchers tracked a total of 1,083 people living with dementia who also received Medicare benefits for three years.
The study compared those individuals to a similar group of patients living in the same ZIP codes who did not participate in the program.
“The most striking finding was that patients enrolled in the program reduced their risk of entering a nursing home by about 40 percent,” said lead study author Lee Jennings of the University of Oklahoma.
Researchers found no differences between the two tracked groups in the number of hospitalizations, emergency room visits or hospital readmissions.
The study’s authors said their findings show that interventions like the care program can delay nursing home placement without adding costs.
The authors noted that limited pharmaceutical treatments and primary physicians’ inability to offer repeated, longer sessions with their patients has hampered the quality of care for people with dementia.
That makes access to community resources and a reliable family network even more important for this population.
“The [care program] isn’t going to reverse dementia, but it allows us to provide high-quality care to help patients cope with the progression of this disease and stay in their homes for longer,” Jennings said.
Dementia is not a single neurological disease but rather an umbrella of hundreds of different conditions affecting the brain in various ways, according to the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project.
Various types include the stroke-induced vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia caused by proteins in the brain and frontotemporal dementia, which results from degeneration of the brain lobes. Alzheimer’s disease, which attacks memory, is the most common form of dementia.