Dementia may Increase Risk of Hospitalization

Dementia linked to higher rates of hospitalization even for minor medical conditions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) People with dementia are more likely to be hospitalized for minor medical conditions, which may be linked to less effective preventative care for people with dementia.

A recent study found that people with dementia were more likely to be hospitalized, in general, and for minor conditions like urinary tract infections. Improving proactive health care for people with dementia may help them avoid costly hospital stays.

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Researchers at the University of Washington, led by Elizabeth Phelan, MD, looked at the hospitalization records of people who were part of the Adult Changes in Thought Act (ACT).

ACT was a long-term study of adults over age 65 that tracked the health and cognitive abilities of 3,019 participants between 1994 and 2007.  No participants had dementia at the start of the study.

Dr. Phelan and colleagues looked at the hospitalization patterns for people after they had developed dementia and compared it to those who did not develop dementia.

They found that 86 percent of people who developed dementia were hospitalized for an overnight stay at least once. Only 59 percent of people who did not have dementia were hospitalized for an overnight stay during the study.

They also found that people with dementia were almost twice as likely to be admitted for an overnight stay in the hospital for conditions that do not normally require hospitalization, like urinary tract infections, bacterial pneumonia, ulcers and dehydration.

The authors noted that the reasons for this increased risk are likely complicated. Patients with dementia are more likely to have trouble with self care and reporting of symptoms to their doctors because of their cognitive difficulties.

Patients with dementia are also at increased risk of major health conditions, like stroke. For this reason, patients with dementia may be hospitalized more quickly than patients without dementia.

The authors concluded that their findings “suggest that there may be important opportunities for improving care of demented older persons, including developing better strategies for delivering anticipatory, proactive primary care to this population.”

The study was published in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors report no financial conflicts.

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Review Date: 
May 20, 2012
Last Updated:
July 31, 2012