Study: Nursing Homes Must Prepare for Influx of Alzheimer’s Patients

A new study on Alzheimer’s disease by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health finds that a culture change is desperately needed for to help improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes. Facilities also need help to prepare for the millions of patients expected to be diagnosed with the disease in the next few decades.

“My findings show that cognitive impairment and dementia are often key predictors of residents’ quality of life,” says Tetyana Shippee Ph.D, assistant professor in the Division of Health Policy & Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Therefore, it is imperative that there is a special focus on quality of life for those with dementia in nursing homes.”

The researchers say state and federal regulations should be updated to improve nursing home quality of life by:

  • Improving patient assessment. Comprehensive assessments of people with Alzheimer’s could ensure more patients avoid eligibility gaps and qualify for nursing home care subsidies. They could also identify potential problems for patients, such as fall risks or behavioral challenges.
  • Increasing state Medicaid payments to nursing homes. The funding would help eliminate funding disparities among nursing homes and offer resources to those wanting to make longer-lasting improvements and potentially cost-beneficial changes in quality of care.
  • Expanding pay-for-performance nursing home care models. These models would create financial incentives—rather than the penalties in use currently–for health care improvements.

“While there are a number of promising approaches to helping those with dementia, updating methods is often slow because of reimbursement challenges,” says Shippee. “I also think it is important to emphasize the continued challenge of timely access to nursing home care for those with dementia and disparities in innovation based on nursing home status, [such as] whether they’re non-profit or for profit or Medicaid vs. Medicare funded.”

The study was published in Health Affairs.

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