More likely to suffer from disability near the end of life and require assistance of a caregiver to complete the activities of daily living are people who live to an older age.
According to the study background, while many people do live into their eighth and ninth decades independently and free of disability, the end-of-life course is increasingly likely to be marked by disability.
Alexander K. Smith, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues used a nationally representative sample of older Americans to determine national estimates of disability during the last two years of live.
Disability was defined as needing help with at least one of the following activities of daily living: dressing, bathing, eating, transferring, walking across the room and using the toilet.
The study included 8,232 decedents whose average age at death was 79 years. Of the decedents, 52 percent were women.
According to the study results, the prevalence of disability increased from 28 percent two years before death to 56 percent in the last month of life. Those adults who died at the oldest ages were more likely to have a disability two years before death (50-69 years, 14 percent; 70-79 years, 21 percent; 80-89 years, 32 percent; 90 years or more, 50 percent).
Disability was more common among women two years before death (32 percent) than among men (21 percent), the results indicate.
The study concluded that their findings add to the evidence that those who live to advanced ages will spend greater periods of time in states of disability than those who die at younger ages.
The study has been published by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.