Elderly diseases that overlap

home care omahaA new government study shows that among America’s 733,000 assisted living residents, 82 percent have at least one of the three most common chronic conditions — high blood pressure, heart disease or Alzheimer’s. And many of these residents suffer from multiple chronic conditions.

What’s most concerning, however, is how multiple diseases are treated in an elderly adult. For example, treatment for high blood pressure often includes diuretics, which cause someone to urinate frequently. But if that same person also suffers from Alzheimer’s or other onset dementia they’ll likely already be incontinent.

Much of the way we practice medicine is looking at disease by disease, Dr. Cynthia Boyd, professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins, told the New York Times. We aren’t doing enough thinking about how to add them together and really integrate care.

The Times article has a beautiful Venn diagram accompanying it, showing data from 2010 National Center for Health Statistics, including how often the above mentioned conditions coincide and why overlap is fast becoming an important new field of study.

Check out the interactive diagram here. Some stats are adapted below.

    • 42% of assisted living residents have Alzheimer’s or other onset dementia — a higher percentage than expected by the authors of the National Center for Health Statistics.


    • 57% of residents had high blood pressure, which can be especially difficult to treat properly in a patient with multiple conditions.


    • Among those 57% with high blood pressure and 42% with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, 18% suffered from both.


    • 34% of assisted living residents in the study had heart disease. Certain treatments like statins can cause cognitive impairment, a big concern if the patient also has dementia.


    • 9% of residents had all three conditions, which are extremely difficult to treat due to complicated drug regimens and several side effects.



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