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2022 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship (AARF)

Outcomes and quality of life for people with dementia facing surgery

What challenges do people with dementia face as they prepare for surgery?

Rachel Adler, Sc.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc.
Boston, MA - United States


Older individuals living with dementia commonly undergo surgeries, and they often face specific challenges when making decisions about upcoming surgical procedures. Having dementia may prevent an individual from fully participating in surgery-related decisions, and there is often a lack of information about how surgical procedures impact an individual with dementia’s health and quality of life. Such challenges can make it difficult for individuals with dementia, their caregivers and physicians to adequately prepare for a surgery.  

Research Plan

Dr. Rachel Adler and colleagues will explore the health consequences of surgery for individuals living with dementia. First, they will analyze Medicare data to compare how quality of life and other health factors differ between individuals with dementia who had surgery for a particular condition and those who did not. They will also use Medicare data to examine how different surgical procedures for the same condition may lead to different health outcomes for individuals with dementia. Next, the researchers will interview 60 individuals with dementia and their caregivers to identify the practical, health-related and emotional factors that play a role in their decisions about having surgery. Participants will also be asked to provide their own definition of a successful surgery.


Results from this study could broaden our understanding of the links between surgery and quality of life among individuals with dementia and their caregivers. It could also lead to improvements in how families living with dementia prepare for surgery, and how surgery-related care is administered by physicians and surgeons.

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