Hospital Stays Worsen Alzheimer's
A summary of a study led by Tamara G. Fong, MD, PhD of Harvard's Institute for Aging Research and entitled “Adverse Outcomes After Hospitalization and Delirium in Persons With Alzheimer Disease,”warned, "When faced with the decision to hospitalize a loved one with AD, caregivers may want to ask health care providers to carefully consider whether alternatives to hospitalization can be identified. If hospitalization is necessary, then efforts should be made to prevent delirium. Caregivers of patients with AD should realize that hospitalization often marks a substantial downturn in the course of AD, especially if delirium ensues, and should plan for the increased support that their loved ones, and they, may need if it occurs." The full report was published June 19th in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Judith Graham, writing in the Chicago Tribune, offered some helpful advice regarding delirium, which is an acute confusional state characterized by agitation, extreme emotions, and even hallucinations: "Hospital procedures can foster delirium in frail older people by disrupting their routines, exposing them to new medications, interfering with their their sleep and making them feel out of control. Studies have shown that several interventions can make a difference, such as putting clocks in rooms so someone can tell what time it is, minimizing the use of restraints, keeping rooms quiet and dark at night, and carefully managing medication."
Graham also quotes Dr. Malaz Boustani, an associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, as saying that family members need to "work with their doctor." In other words, be proactive and don't let "white coat anxiety" keep you from speaking up in the presence of a physician. You and your loved one both stand to benefit if you do everything you can to keep deliriumat bay.