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Tube-Feeding in Dementia Nursing Home Residents Drops Dramatically

BOSTON—August 16, 2016— The proportion of nursing home residents with advanced dementia and eating dependency who received feeding tubes decreased by approximately 50% between 2000 and 2014 according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Brown University’s Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research and University of Washington’s Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence conducted the study.

Investigators reviewed data on more than 71,000 advanced dementia residents in nursing homes across the U.S. From 2000 – 2014, researchers found that the proportion of residents receiving feeding tubes declined from 11.7% in 2000 to 5.7% in 2014. Among white patients, insertion rates declined from 8.6 to 3.1% while rates in black patients declined from 37.6-17.5%. For both cohorts, the proportion of residents with advanced dementia and eating dependency who received feeding tubes decreased by approximately 50% between 2000 and 2014.

According to Susan L. Mitchell MD, MPH, lead author of the study and Director of Palliative Care Research at Marcus Institute, “This decline parallels the emergence of research, expert opinion, and recommendations by national organizations discouraging this practice.”  In the future, to ensure that expert recommendations are disseminated and racial disparities are reduced, researchers argue that fiscal and regulatory policies are needed to discourage tube-feeding and promote a palliative approach to feeding problems for people with dementia.

This study was supported by NIH-NIA P01AG02729. Dr. Mitchell is supported by NIH-NIA K24AG033640.