Quality of life differs for the oldest old and their caregivers

In 2011, Maria I. Lapid, M.D., in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, published results of a study of quality of life among nonagenarians living in the community.

Dr. Lapid's team recruited 144 participants aged 90 years and older for their study, "What Is the Quality of Life in the Oldest Old?" The team collected data on:

  • Cognitive functioning
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Physical functioning
  • Quality of life

All of the participants reported high overall quality of life, regardless of cognitive functioning. "What this means," says Dr. Lapid, "is that the oldest old individuals endorsed a good quality of life whether they were cognitively normal or had mild cognitive impairment or dementia."

Perceptions differ

The team also explored how their participants' self-perceived quality of life related to caregivers' perception of their patients' quality of life. "The disparity between the subjects' self-perceived quality of life and the caregivers' perception of their quality of life was interesting. Individuals perceived their quality of life to be better than their caregivers did," notes Dr. Lapid. The difference in participants' and caregivers' perceptions was more pronounced for participants with dementia than for those with depression.

"Since quality of life is an individual's self-perception of their well-being, subjective ratings of quality of life are still the gold standard," says Dr. Lapid. "The discrepancy, however, also indicates we should pay attention to the caregivers. They may be more affected by the situation than their patients are."