Health services must address multiple conditions in dementia care
Sharon M. Nelis is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter involved in the ‘Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life: living well with dementia: the IDEAL study. Find out more at www.idealproject.org.uk and @IDEALStudyTweet
Living with dementia poses many challenges and may be coupled with other health problems, as the changes associated with ageing can lead to the accrual of illnesses and disabilities. There is growing interest in the co-occurrence of medical conditions and their implications for the individual. As part of the IDEAL study we investigated the comorbidity profile of people with dementia and examined the associations between severity of comorbidities, HRQoL and QoL using a large community-based cohort of people with dementia.
We asked 1,547 people with dementia taking part in the IDEAL study to tell us about the number and type of health conditions they currently have. The majority of people with dementia were living with more than one health condition. Hypertension (high blood pressure) was common and was often present alongside other problems such as connective tissue disease (joint pain and weakness), diabetes, and depression.
We also asked people to tell us about their quality of life, both related to their health and related to life in general. Having a good quality of life means you are happier and healthier. We found that people with multiple health conditions rated their quality of life less positively than people with fewer health conditions. This was particularly true for people with 5 or more health conditions.
There are particular challenges for people with dementia living with a number of health conditions, and these people may require greater support such as additional care or better care planning. Care providers often focus on individual conditions and this study highlights the need for better care planning and the organization of care provision to deal with multiple conditions in an integrated way.