INTRODUCTION: In this phase of the ongoing What Matters Most study series, designed to evaluate concepts that are meaningful to people affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD), we quantified the importance of symptoms, impacts, and outcomes of AD to people at risk for or with AD and care partners of people with AD.
METHODS: We administered a web-based survey to individuals at risk for or with AD (Group 1: unimpaired cognition with evidence of AD pathology; Group 2: AD risk factors and subjective cognitive complaints/mild cognitive impairment; Group 3: mild AD) and to care partners of individuals with moderate AD (Group 4) or severe AD (Group 5). Respondents rated the importance of 42 symptoms, impacts, and outcomes on a scale ranging from 1 ("not at all important") to 5 ("extremely important").
RESULTS: Among the 274 respondents (70.4% female; 63.1% white), over half of patient respondents rated all 42 items as "very important" or "extremely important," while care partners rated fewer items as "very important" or "extremely important." Among the three patient groups, the minimum (maximum) mean importance rating for any item was 3.4 (4.6), indicating that all items were at least moderately to very important. Among care partners of people with moderate or severe AD, the minimum (maximum) mean importance rating was 2.1 (4.4), indicating that most items were rated as at least moderately important. Overall, taking medications correctly, not feeling down or depressed, and staying safe had the highest importance ratings among both patients and care partners, regardless of AD phase.
CONCLUSION: Concepts of importance to individuals affected by AD go beyond the common understanding of "cognition" or "function" alone, reflecting a desire to maintain independence, overall physical and mental health, emotional well-being, and safety. Preservation of these attributes may be key to understanding whether interventions deliver clinically meaningful outcomes.