Hospitalizations and cognitive decline in older adults

Emergency and urgent hospitalizations are associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in older adults, report researchers at Rush University Medical Center. The results of their study suggest that hospitalization may be a more of a major risk factor for long-term cognitive decline in older adults than previously recognized.

“We found that those who have non-elective (emergency or urgent) hospitalizations and who have not previously been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease had a rapid decline in cognitive function (i.e., thinking abilities) compared to the prehospital rates,” said Bryan James, PhD, an epidemiologist and in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an assistant professor in the Rush Department of Internal Medicine. “By comparison, people who were never hospitalized and those who had elective hospitalizations did not experience the drastic decline in cognitive function.”

James and colleagues presented the research data at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London on July 17.

Study compares hospitalization data and cognitive assessments for 930 older adults

The data emerged from a study of 930 older adults (75 percent female, an average age of 81 years old) enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP) in Chicago. The study involved annual cognitive assessments and clinical evaluations.

Information on hospitalizations was acquired by linking records of 1999 to 2010 Medicare claims for these participants with their MAP data. All hospital admissions were designated as elective, emergency, or urgent (the latter two were combined as non-elective for analysis). Non-elective hospitalizations thus include emergencies and admissions for conditions that require immediate attention.

Of the 930 participants, 613 were hospitalized at least once over an average of almost five years of observation. Of those who were hospitalized, 260 (28 percent) had at least one elective hospital admission, and 553 (60…

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