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Apathy ‘increases mortality’ in nursing home residents

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A sense of “apathy” among nursing home residents is linked with an increased risk of mortality, according to Dutch researchers.

They found apathy was linked with an increased risk of dying over a four-month period, even after controlling for depression.

“The presence of apathy in nursing home patients should get more attention in daily care”

Johanna Nijsten

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also found that apathy was present in half of nursing home patients.

The study authors noted that apathy was defined by diminished or lack of motivational, goal-directed behavior, and a lack of cognition and emotional affect.

It can lead to reduced interest and participation in the main activities of daily living, they added.

The said their findings suggested that screening and treatment strategies for apathy should be developed for individuals in nursing homes.

The study, led by researchers at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, involved 713 nursing home patients at 33 homes.

Apathy was assessed using the 10-item Apathy Evaluation Scale and depressive symptoms were assessed using the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia.

The researchers said: “Apathy was associated with mortality over a four-month period in nursing home patients, even when controlling for depression.

“These data suggest that screening and treatment strategies for apathy should be developed for this patient population,” they said.

Lead author Johanna Nijsten stated: “The presence of apathy in nursing home patients should get more attention in daily care.

“Patients, family, and staff need to establish goals of care to improve quality of life and advanced care planning, in the context of decreased life expectancy,” she added.

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