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Alzheimer's Worsened by Hospitalization?

Alzheimer's can be a very difficult disease to watch someone suffer with, and we are just the outsiders looking in. The fast decline of loved ones is an ever-changing challenge as is their general care. Recently, a new study has come out that gives insight into how hospitalization can rapidly increase the decline of Alzheimer’s patient's memories and cognitive ability.

Like many other patients who do not have the debilitating mental disease, Alzheimer's patients do endure hospitalization for health reasons often not related to the disease. However, it is this stay that can be a turning point in the severity of problems related to Alzheimer’s as many patients begin to experience delirium during their hospital stay. The intense confusion can lead to new behaviors and/or exacerbate common ones. This particular study has shown that hospitalization of Alzheimer's patients usually results in a negative outcome. Outcomes can range from mental decline, to continued delirium, and death. Many patients who are hospitalized and begin with delirium have to be institutionalized post-hospitalization because of the severity of their mental status.

Of the patients who were hospitalized in the study, most of them were delirium-free beforehand. Out of the patients researched (a total of 771), 367 were admitted into the hospital with only 4% being admitted for actual delirium. Most cases were admitted because of heart problems, abdominal pain, fainting, and falls. 23% of patients admitted without delirium, were seen to have a mental decline over their stay and 41% of those admitted with delirium were seen to have a rapid mental decline.

Alzheimer's is a terminal illness, but hospitalization seems to increase the likelihood of Nursing Home admittance or even death within the following year. The study also states that most patients had continued delirium or it became worse quickly and only some of the patients saw any kind of delirium relief, though the latter situation was less common.

The study clearly shows that while hospitalization is not the direct reason for mental decline, the added factor of delirium (along with the stay) propels Alzheimer's patients into a less manageable state. Those with delirium during their hospital stay were 9.3 times more likely to be institutionalized and 5.4 times more likely to meet their term within the year after release.

Many people are looking into creating a home health situation specifically for these patients. Researchers have found that this could be an excellent choice. Not only will it allow proper treatment of Alzheimer's patients and their medical conditions, but it will allow them to stay where they are most comfortable, decrease the risk of delirium and failing health, and can make a positive impact on health care costs.


Report Published by Annals of Internal Medicine June 2012 All percentages and figures can be found within.

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