Online calculator predicts when older adults will die

OTTAWA, Ontario — Scientists have developed an online calculator that can help predict when older adults will die. It is based on data from nearly half a million people. Scientists say it will help understand the changing needs of elderly people and aid their families in planning how to handle their care.

The data is based on more than 491,000 older adults who used home care between 2013 and 2017 and are focused on people who are likely to die within the next five years. The calculated life expectancy can be as low as four weeks for very frail people.

People are asked whether they have been diagnosed with diseases like stroke, dementia, or hypertension and whether their ability to carry out tasks has decreased over the past three months. They’re also asked about their ability to make decisions and whether they have suffered vomiting, swelling, shortness of breath, unplanned weight loss, dehydration, or loss of appetite.

The calculator, named “Risk Evaluation for Support: Predictions for Elder-Life in the Community Tool” (RESPECT), can predict death within six months. Researchers found declines in a person’s ability to carry out activities of daily living were stronger predictors of six-month-mortality than the diseases that a person has.

“The RESPECT calculator allows families and their loved ones to plan. For example, it can help an adult child plan when to take a leave of absence from work to be with a parent or decide when to take the last family vacation together,” says Dr. Amy Hsu, an investigator at the Bruyère Research Institute and the University of Ottawa, in a statement.

“Knowing how long a person has to live is essential in making informed decisions about what treatments they should get and where they should get them,” adds Dr. Peter Tanuseputro of the Ottawa Hospital. “As a person gets closer to death, the balance shifts from having curative care as the primary goal, to care that maximizes a person’s quality of remaining life.”

The research is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.