Hospitalization is a Risk for Alzheimer’s Patient

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that The Annals of Interal Medicine has published a report confirming that hospitalization is hazardous to the health of Alzheimer’s patients.

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are more likely than the general population to be hospitalized for preventable reasons such as infections, perhaps because they are not able to communicate their symptoms in the early stages. Once they are there, they are significantly more likely to be discharged to a nursing home, or to die, within the next year. The risk is even higher if they experience extra confusion or agitation during their stay.

Dr. Tamara Fong, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, who was the lead researcher, reported that many respondents told her their family members wre never the same after a hospitalization. The hospital is upsetting for most of us, so we can imagine what it would be like if you can’t remember where you are, who all these strangers are, and why they are poking and prodding you.

While the research makes it clear that hospitalization is especially hard on people with Alzheimer’s, it is up to us to develop a strategy to minimize the need for such hospitalizations. We have written previously in this blog about refusing unnecessary diagnostic procedures for patients with Alzheimer’s, for many of these same reasons. Signing a Do Not Recusitate Oder, and preparing very specific Advance Directives while still competent is another way to avoid such hospitalizations.

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