According to a recent study, more than 50% of all patients with pre-existing dementia will experience delirium while hospitalized. Failing to detect and treat their delirium early can be deadly, leading to a faster decline of their physical and mental health.
Delirium - a deadly, costly disease that significantly impacts people’s lives - is often overlooked, especially in people with dementia.
This study followed 139 hospitalized adults aged 65 and older with dementia. Study authors noted that patients who developed delirium had a 25% greater chance of dying within 30 days.
Dementia is an irreversible, progressive condition that affects cognitive and physical function. Symptoms usually occur over months to years and can include memory loss, inability to solve simple problems, difficulties with language and thinking, personality and behavior changes and other mental problems.
Delirium is a reversible condition that comes on quickly - if caught and treated early, it can be cured. Many symptoms of delirium may appear similar to dementia, but signs such as inattention and sleepiness or hyperactivity can help to differentiate delirium from dementia.
Study authors focused on a combination of disorders known as delirium superimposed on dementia (DSD). They found a 32% incidence of new delirium in the hospitalized patients with dementia - who stayed in hospital about four days longer than patients without delirium.
They also had a reduced level of physical and mental ability when they left the hospital and at follow-up visits one month later. Additionally, patients with DSD were more likely to have died a month after their hospital stay.
Common causes of delirium are infections, dehydration and changes in medication. One-third of the patients in this study arrived at the hospital dehydrated.
Preventing delirium is important because hospitals and health caregivers don’t want their patients to go home worse than when they came into the hospital.
The researchers say that their goal is to help practitioners recognize and treat delirium in patients with DSD as early as possible, helping to improve his or her overall quality of life along with reducing mortality rates.
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