The researchers took into account the fact that hospitalized patients were generally older and sicker than patients who did not have to go to the hospital during the study.
However, the fact that the study involved only one research center and that the participants were predominantly white makes it harder to say the outcomes associated with hospitalization and delirium could apply to the overall population, Fong said.
"This study does a great job of saying, 'Look how serious this problem really is,'" said Dr. James Galvin, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
"Hospitalization is often the tipping point," he added. "The medical condition which may lead to hospitalizing may be a tipping point but clearly the hospital can be, too."
There is now a lot of focus on improving health in the home setting to avoid hospitalization and delirium, Galvin said. This includes getting the flu shot, maintaining good bladder and bowel hygiene to prevent urinary tract infections, and managing chronic pain medications that could lead to delirium.
To learn more about Alzheimer's disease and delirium, visit the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCES: Tamara Fong, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, neurology, Harvard Medical School, and assistant scientist, Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew Senior Life Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; James Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., professor, neurology and psychiatry, NYU
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