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Dead Reckoning: New Online Calculator Can Predict When Seniors Will Die

Scientists say they can estimate when people will need help so they can intervene with end of life care.

OTTAWA, Ontario — This new calculator may not help you calculate your budget, but it will help you calculate the number of years left in your life.

To help understand the changing care needs of older adults as they age and when they might be nearing the end of their lives, scientists recently developed a new calculator that can help predict death and end-of-life care needs for them.

A team of researchers developed the Risk Evaluation for Support: Predictions for Elder-Life in the Community Tool (RESPECT).

The calculator, which predicts death within six months, is based on data from more than 491,000 community-dwelling older adults who used home care in the six years between 2007 and 2013.

The study population included people aging 50 years or older and eligible for government-funded long-term home care in the community. Also, the person must have received at least one assessment using the Resident Assessment Instrument for Home Care between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2013.

As per scientists, they sought to develop and validate a mortality risk model for older adults with diverse care needs in-home care using self-reportable information.

“The RESPECT calculator allows families and their loved ones to plan,” said Amy Hsu, investigator at the Bruyere Research Institute, affiliate investigator at The Ottawa Hospital, and faculty in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

“For example, it can help an adult child plan when to take a leave of absence from work to be with a parent or decide when to take the last family vacation together.”

Using a “big data” approach representing a population perspective of the end-of-life experience of older adults in Ontario, RESPECT provides estimates of survival.

The research team found that declines in a person’s ability to carry out activities of daily living, such as hygiene, using the toilet, and locomotion, were stronger predictors of 6-month mortality than the diseases that a person has.

Although most Canadians die from predictable causes and have health needs that can be met at home, only 20 percent of people receive a physician home visit in their last year of life.

“Knowing how long a person has to live is essential in making informed decisions about what treatments they should get and where they should get them,” said Peter Tanuseputro, physician-scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Also, an investigator at the Bruyere Research Institute.

“As a person gets closer to death, the balance shifts from having curative care as the primary goal, to care that maximizes a person’s quality of remaining life.”

The tool was designed with patients and their care partners in mind and has been piloted in community settings in Ontario. It can also be used by physicians and home care staff, in addition to palliative care professionals.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Pallavi Mehra)

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