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Dementia May Lead to Avoidable Hospitalizations
Date:1/10/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- People with dementia are far more likely to be hospitalized than their peers who don't have any impairment in their brain function, a new study finds.

What's more, about two-thirds of the hospitalizations that occur in people with dementia are for potentially preventable illnesses, such as a urinary tract infection, the study shows.

"Hospital admissions for all causes and potentially preventable admissions were significantly higher for those with dementia," said the study's lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Phelan, an associate professor in gerontology and geriatric medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and an affiliate investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.

Hospitalizations are particularly difficult on people with dementia, Phelan noted. "There have been lots of studies looking at the risks for people with dementia in the hospital. They're at risk for delirium, falls, pressure ulcers; they may need to be restrained, and many never return to their prior level of functioning after a hospitalization. If hospitalizations could be avoided, it would be helpful for preserving cognition and avoiding new problems," she explained.

Results of the study are published in the Jan. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included a retrospective analysis of 3,019 people recruited for a study called Adult Changes in Thought. All of the study volunteers were over 65 years old and were members of the Group Health Cooperative, a large health care delivery system. At the beginning of the study, none of the volunteers had signs of dementia.

By the end of the study, 494 people had developed dementia. Of those, 427 (86 percent) had been hospitalized at least once, while just 59 percent of those who didn't have dementia had been hospitalized at least once.

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