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Posted on 24th January 2017

Hospital stays could increase dementia decline

A fifth of older patients admitted to hospital will develop delirium when they are admitted to hospital.

Delirium is a condition that starts with a shock and can accelerate memory problems and dementia in elderly patients.

Sufferers become confused and disorientated and can even hallucinate.

A new study has shown that people who suffer from dementia and then suffer from delirium suffer a greater decline in their cognitive abilities that someone suffering from just one condition.

It had been assumed that the effects of delirium lifted when the underlying illness ends and had no further, long lasting damage.

Daniel Davis of University College London, who led the research, said: “Until recently, healthcare staff had thought of delirium as an inconvenient side-effect from being ill. But research such as this paper now shows it has longer-term consequences.”

Doctors and nurses struggle to spot delirium in patients and do not realise how serious it is.

Researched looked at brain specimens of nearly 1,000 people aged over 75 who had been recorded as having memory issues, a decline in cognitive ability and experience of delirium.

Those brains that had dementia abnormalities and had episodes of delirium had the greatest decline in cognitive behaviour.

Dr Davis said: “Unfortunately, most delirium goes unrecognized. In busy hospitals, a sudden change in confusion may not be noticed by hospital staff. Patients can be transferred several times and staff often switch over — it requires everyone to ‘think delirium’.”

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