After Hospitalization, Mental Trouble for Elderly Patients

Many older people fear that a hospital stay could leave them even more disabled than they were before. Unfortunately, there’s new reason to believe this fear is justified. Elderly patients who are hospitalized are at much higher risk of cognitive problems afterward, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

The cause is unclear: Both the illness that brought the patient to the hospital and the treatments received there may contribute. But the risk appeared to last for years. The researchers found that the rate of cognitive decline in older patients more than doubled after a hospital stay, generally affecting thinking and memory across the board. Before these older people were admitted, mental test scores slipped 0.031 units per year on average; after a hospitalization, the decline was 0.075 units annually on average.

Especially vulnerable to this effect were patients with more serious illnesses who stayed in the hospital for longer periods of time, and patients who started experiencing worsening memory and thinking problems before they were admitted. Not every older patient who goes to the hospital will experience these kinds of issues; many return home after an acute-care stay without any kind of impairment.

For more go to: NY Times New Old Age Blog

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