Hospitalization May Be Bad For Alzheimer Patients

July 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

A few months ago we wrote about the impact hospitals have on seniors in general.  We referred to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found at least one-third of  patients older than 70, leave the hospital more frail than when they arrived, and many become too weak to go home.  Last week, a similar story ran in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

This latest study showed the effects of hospitalization on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease was even greater than the general senior population.  The article concluded the patient’s risk for an adverse outcome is greatly increased after a stay in the hospital.  In fact, the risk is three times greater for the over 5 million Americans with the disease than for those without it.  These facts are particularly frightening when you consider the number of people with Alzheimer’s is projected to rise to 15 million in the next 30 to 40 years.

Some of the adverse outcomes listed in the study included mental decline, delirium, further institutionalization or even death and most of these incidents happened within one year of hospitalization.  Knowing this, some experts are recommending that doctors try to keep Alzheimer patients out of hospitals unless absolutely necessary.  If hospitalization is required, there are some steps that can be taken to help the patient avoid a decline after their stay.

Alzheimer patients have a very defined list of needs that should be addressed.  One contributing factor cited in the study, is that many Alzheimer patients are unable to communicate clearly.  They may not be able to tell a nurse they are hungry, in pain or need to visit the restroom.  Trying to be proactive and anticipate these needs may help patients avoid anxiety and a stressful situation.

A few other items that may help are to pay attention to the patient’s surroundings and try to create the most peaceful environment they can.  When possible, the patient should not be disturbed in the night to check vitals.  A good night’s sleep can go a long way to help the mental stability of these patients.  Keeping the patient on their “normal” schedule will help patients retain a sense of time.  Doctors should also avoid medications such as sedatives that may contribute to delirium.

Family members and friends can get involved by making sure someone is with the patient at all times during the hospitalization.  Also making sure the patient has their personal items like glasses, hearing aids and even a calendar or clock may help them avoid confusion.

Do you have a suggestion for how to help Alzheimer patients through a hospitalization or other stressful situation?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.

   Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.

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