Hospitalizations contribute to cognitive decline, study finds

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Sheila Lambowitz
Sheila Lambowitz

Seniors who have been hospitalized have a higher risk for experiencing a cognitive decline, a new study finds.

In a study of 1,870 Chicagoans over the age of 65, researchers tested the participants' cognitive functioning and long-term memory following a hospitalization. They found that overall cognitive function declined more than twice as fast after a first hospital stay. What's more, on specific cognitive tests, the rate of decline after the first hospital stay was more than three times faster on a long-term memory test and 1.5 times faster on a complex attention test.

These findings could be critical as hospitals and nursing homes are increasingly being encouraged to work together to prevent hospital readmissions for nursing home residents, Rush University researchers said.

A resident who is moved back to a hospital after being in a skilled nursing facility may also experience disorientation, McKnight's Online Expo speaker Sheila Lambowitz said Thursday. Staff should make sure the family understands what can be done at the SNF instead of moving their loved one back to a hospital.

“A lot more work needs to be done in working with the family and explaining how things work,” Lambowitz said. “They don't really know that there's the possibility of picking up an infection, like MRSA, or the trauma of the transfer can cause confusion. There can be permanent negative effects.”

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging supported the study. It was published in the March 21 issue of Neurology.

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