Most people who live to their nineties will depend on someone else for their daily care or will have trouble walking short distances in the two years before their death, according to an article published print in theJournal of the American Medical Association.
“People are bombarded in the media with messages from people like Dr. Oz, saying that if you eat blueberries, go for walks, and play Scrabble, you will live to 100 and then die suddenly, never having experienced disability,” says lead author Alex Smith, MD, MPH, a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. “Our results suggest that the overwhelming majority of those who live to their nineties will be dependent on someone else for daily activities like bathing or experience difficulty walking several blocks in their last two years of life.”
Researchers found that, two years before death, 50% of people who died in their nineties needed a caregiver’s help with basic daily activities like dressing, bathing, or eating. More than three quarters needed help in their last month of life. Regardless of the age at death, 69% had difficulty walking several blocks two years before death and 82% had difficulty climbing several flights of stairs.
Smith said, “This is what I see in my work caring for older adults…Things fall apart toward the end. Even those patients who make it to 90 in good health tend to experience disability and mobility impairment in their last months and years of life.” Smith added, “It’s a triple whammy for women. First, women live to older ages and are more likely to be disabled for that reason. Second, we found that independent of age, women are more likely to be disabled than men during the two years before death. This is likely because women are more prone to disabling health conditions and due to differences in body composition. And third, older men are more likely to have a spouse to care for them, but older women are likely to be widowed in their last years of life,” he explains. For more information, visithttp://www.sanfrancisco.va.gov