Unintended Consequences of Hospitalizations for People with Alzheimer’s & Dementia

A recent news story highlighted what is now referred to as post-hospital syndrome. This is described as a readmission to a hospital within 30 days for a medical reason unrelated to the original admission – though thought to be a result of the initial hospitalization itself.

The story identifies typical stressors for patients in the hospital – for anyone – including confused days and nights, altered concept of time, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and dietary intake, and risk of infections.

Now, consider the additional difficulties those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will experience when hospitalized. Restraints are often used due to disorientation and confusing, leading to risk of falls and loss of mobility and independent ambulation. Poor dietary intake occurs, as many do not understand what to do with food or are unable to eat independently. A strange environment and unfamiliar people increases anxiety and stress, causing increased confusion and often unwanted behaviors. An inability to understand or remember what is said, follow directions, and communicate needs makes the experience even more difficult.

It is not uncommon for this population to suffer serious adverse consequences of a hospital stay long after discharge. However, much can be done to improve hospitalization and prevent another hospitalization.

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