New research finds that older patients who have cirrhosis, the final phase of chronic liver disease, have significant functional disability and require twice the amount of informal caregiving as healthy seniors. They also contribute additional strain on the healthcare system.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that understanding this burden on healthcare is important, as the prevalence of cirrhosis is growing among American seniors. Previous studies have found that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which ranges from fatty liver to cirrhosis, has become the most prevalent cause of liver disease across the globe, affecting 30 percent of the overall population and 75 percent of obese people.
Cirrhosis is characterized by the scarring of the liver and poor liver function, and is commonly caused by chronic liver disease. This condition can be caused by hepatitis C, long-term alcohol use, or a number of other disorders in the body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
"Our population-based study confirms that cirrhosis in the elderly poses a significant burden to patients and their caregivers in terms of health-related and economic costs," says Rakoski. "A greater focus on comprehensive delivery of patient care by involving caregivers and improving care coordination will help to optimize disease management for older cirrhotic patients."