Dementia patients face increased risks from care transitions

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The majority of recently diagnosed dementia residents are bouncing between healthcare sites, putting them at risk for serious health problems, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver tracked health data from nearly 7,000 seniors who were diagnosed with dementia between 2001 and 2002. They were tracked until 2011.

Around 65% of seniors in the study were transferred at least once in their first year after a dementia diagnosis. Seventeen percent had three or more transitions.

The majority of the time these transitions reflected being moved to the hospital.

These transitions increase the risk of medication errors, hospital readmissions and death among seniors with early dementia, researchers said. Researchers also found more movements in the two years before a patient's death.

Transitions also increased for those receiving antipsychotic or benzodiazepine medications, and those living in rural areas.

The study's authors suggest that having a consistent and coordinated long-term care plan that takes dementia guidelines into account may help reduce the number of unnecessary care transitions.

Full results of the study appear in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.