Clinical

An article published this week in JAMA describes a short, simple form that can act as an Alzheimer's-specific living will. 

The article points out that worldwide, the number of people living with dementia is projected to increase from 47 million in 2015 to 132 million by 2050. And since dementia is unique in its slow progression, standard advance directives are often not helpful for patients who develop dementia. 

"The article lays out an innovative, simple way for people to express their wishes about how much medical care they would want if they were to develop Alzheimer's," said lead author Dr. Barak Gaster.

Dr. J. Randall Curtis is senior author on the article. He directs the UW Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellencewhich provides patient and family resources on advance care planning, and palliative care. But these resources, in their current state, are often not enough when it comes to the common scenario of Alzheimer's. As a result, families of patients who reach the later stages of the disease are often unsure whether or not their loved ones would have wanted aggressive care to keep them alive longer. Many family members may err on the side of giving more life prolonging care than their loved ones would have wanted.

"Many people have strong feelings about the medical care they would want if they developed advanced Alzheimer's," said Gaster. "This form gives them an easy way to document their wishes, to guide their families’ decision making in the future."