Abstract

Decline in basic self-care abilities is an important risk factor for institutionalization in individuals with dementia. The ability to predict such decline would be of clinical importance in working with families of dementia patients. Research has suggested that cognitive decline may precede loss of functional capacity. This paper utilized a large sample of probable Alzheimer's disease patients (N=150) who were evaluated longitudinally to assess the pattern of neuropsychological functioning predictive of rapid decline in self-care. The findings indicated that despite initial equality of Lawton Physical Self-Maintenance (PSM) scores, patients showing rapid decline of PSM function displayed significantly more impaired performance on neuropsychological measures at diagnosis. They also exhibited a statistically significant difference in the pattern of scores from patients who remained stable. The pattern of the rapid declining group included more severe impairment in visual spatial skills, processing speed, and concept formation. Difficulties in using individual patients' cognitive profiles to make predictions about future rate of PSM decline are discussed.