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New Study on Hospitalization Risks of Seniors with Dementia

Caring for the Ages reported this week on a new study that compared long-term hospitalization risks of seniors with dementia and those without dementia. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It involved following the health and medical care of a group of over 3,000 patients. Over time nearly 500 patients in that group developed dementia, leaving about 2,500 patients who did not develop the condition. The study compared information between those who developed dementia and those who did not. Those in this study did not live in nursing home at the start of the research; however the editors note that the principles are likely to apply to those in long-term care settings.

What did they find?

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers were not surprised to find that those with dementia had a much higher risk of requiring hospitalization over an 8-year period. Nearly 86% of the dementia group ultimately needed some hospitalization during that time compared with only 59% of the group without dementia. When looking at more serious sudden emergencies (known as ambulatory care-sensitive conditions), the discrepancy was even more apparent. Forty percent of the dementia group had one of these episodes compared with only 17% of the group without dementia.

The researchers explained that many of the conditions which ultimately required ambulatory care were actually preventable. The most common conditions were urinary tract infections, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia.

The study’s authors were primarily focused on gathering raw data on total hospitalizations between the two groups. Honing in on possible causes of the discrepancy was not the main purpose. However, the researchers did offer some suggestions as to why those with dementia face higher hospitalizations.

They explained that the underlying conditions which give rise to dementia risk might also lead to a range of other consequences which ultimately require medical care in the hospital. For example, having a stroke increases the likelihood of dementia, and the stroke itself may increase hospitalization risk. Similarly, the conditions that develop “in the setting” of dementia-like trouble swallowing-lead to increased risk of complications like pneumonia.

In addition, the researchers mentioned that dementia “impairs the ability to self-manage chronic conditions.” In other words, the actual cognitive consequences of dementia make it less likely that these individuals will be able to properly take care of themselves, leading to mismanagement of conditions which deteriorate to the point where close medical care is required.

Each Chicago nursing home neglect attorney at our firm appreciates that this type of research is further indication of the need for caregivers at these establishments to understand the particular vulnerabilities of residents with dementia-failure to do so many be nursing home neglect.

In describing the lessons to be gleaned from this research one doctor explained that the new data “may help clinicians focus their differential diagnostic considerations and thereby permit proactive, early management for these conditions among patients with dementia.” In addition, the researchers explained that it is vital for caregivers to ensure the cognitive impairments of dementia are controlled. The best way to do this is for caregivers to develop close, consistent relationships with the seniors so they are best able to identify their unique habits and behaviors.

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