Nursing homes and hospices are better alternatives than hospitals for elderly dementia patients, experts said this week.

Investigators estimate that between three and seven million dementia patients will be hospitalized each year by 2050, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. They told Reuters that hospitals are more likely than nursing homes to use restraints for dementia patients, as well as recommend aggressive treatments.  

The researchers assert that most dementia patients are admitted to hospitals for infections such as pneumonia, which nursing homes can manage. Hospital admissions also can be prevented by improving Medicare reimbursement to nursing homes that treat infections, and by improving communication with residents’ families, experts say.

“You have to talk to the families but explain to them that the hospital is not appropriate for people with advanced dementia, especially older people with advanced dementia, because hospitalization is decreasing their functioning and producing [discomfort],” Ladislav Volicer, M.D., an aging expert not affiliated with the study, told Reuters.

The University of Massachusetts study was published Nov. 14 online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.