A study designed to determine risks associated with hospitalization and delirium in patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) contains important lessons for Healthy Survivors.
- Hospitalization is associated with an increase in risk of death and institutionalization
- Delirium during hospitalization further increased these risks.
- Delirium was associated with an increased risk for further cognitive decline.
Study limitations obviate drawing conclusions about the causal relationship of delirium to poorer outcomes. But Healthy Survivors recognize opportunities to help elderly loved ones right now.
Preventing delirium and diagnosing it early are vital for preserving quality of life, if nothing else. So while waiting for research to untangle if and how delirium increases the risks for people with AD, friends and family members can take steps to prevent, catch early and treat delirium if their loved one with AD is hospitalized:
- Have someone familiar be present
- Ensure patient puts on eyeglasses and wears hearing aids
- Put a clock and calendar in clear view of patient
- Review every medication being given to patient
- Ensure usual meds are continued, if appropriate
- Ensure new medications are compatible with usual medications
- Minimize use of pain medications without compromising pain control
An excellent resource for anyone who has an elderly loved one is Taking Charge: Good Medical Care for the Elderly and How to Get It. Hannah's key message is that you don't need medical training to be an effective member of the medical caregiving team.