Hospitalization Likely To Accelerate Alzheimer’s Decline

A new study finds that a stay in the hospital may not be beneficial to people with Alzheimer’s disease. The Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center followed nearly 800 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease, and about half of whom went to the hospital for falls, infections and other problems were less likely to go back to the way things were after being discharged.

Hospitalization was associated with mental decline and death, and those who experienced delirium while in the hospital were more likely to have accelerated mental decline than those who did not.  The risk of going into a nursing home and dying in the year following hospitalization was higher for both groups of hospitalized patients. Those who developed delirium were 9.3 times more likely than non hospitalized patients to be institutionalized and 5.4 times more likely to die, while those who were hospitalized and did not have delirium were 6.9 and 4.7 times more likely, respectively.

“Delirium can be quite a problem for patients even with mild Alzheimer’s disease, and preventing it may be a more effective treatment strategy than the current medications,” said Dr. Tamara Fong, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.

The study said some experts advocate treating Alzheimer’s patients at home as much as possible, as it would decrease the chance of delirium and may cut health costs for patients in other ways too.
If a person with Alzheimer’s must go to the hospital a few small steps can decrease the chances for delirium, like frequent visits with familiar people, taking walks, and not using painkillers too much as they can worsen confusion.