Hospital Patients with Dementia Twice as Likely to Return Within 30 Days

Older hospital patients with dementia are about twice as likely to return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, compared to older adults without dementia, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Approximately 25 percent of hospital patients over 65 years old have dementia and are at an increased risk for serious problems such as in-hospital falls and delirium (an abrupt, rapid change in mental function). This means that older adults with dementia are more likely to do poorly during hospital stays compared to those without dementia.

Until now, however, little was known about the effects of dementia on early hospital readmission. In a new study, researchers in Japan investigated the effects of dementia and the prevalence of being admitted to the hospital within 30 days of a previous hospital discharge (the medical term for leaving the hospital once your care is considered complete).

The researchers analyzed information from people 65-years-old and older who had been discharged from hospitals between 2014 and 2015, and then followed their progress for six months. The researchers were looking for unplanned readmissions to the hospital within 30 days of the patient’s discharge.

The findings show that older adults with dementia had about twice the risk for hospital readmission compared to the risk of same-age patients without dementia. However, the rate of risk depended on the patient’s diagnosis. For example, older adults with dementia who were hospitalized for a hip fracture were at greater risk for hospital readmission than were dementia patients diagnosed with gallbladder inflammation.

In 17 of the top 30 most common health conditions, older adults with dementia were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than people without dementia.

The researchers noted that the following three factors may increase the risk of hospital readmission in older adults with dementia:

  • Older patients with dementia may have difficulty following directions when it comes to taking prescribed medications and making it to follow-up doctors appointments. This may lead to poor health and ultimately a readmission;
  • People with dementia may be less able to express their symptoms, which can delay decisions to seek treatment;
  • Special discharge planning for people with dementia may not be available in all hospitals.

The researchers conclude that the risk of readmission for older adults with dementia varies according to diagnosis, and that special discharge planning for people with dementia is vital.

Source: American Geriatrics Society