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Many dementia cases go undetected in hospitals


How reliable is the diagnosis of dementia in hospitals?

More and more people are suffering from dementia these days. Researchers have now found that more than a third of patients with dementia in hospitals go undiagnosed.

Dementia has been on the rise worldwide for years. In their current investigation, scientists from University College London (UCL) found that hospitals in many cases do not correctly diagnose dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal Of The Alzheimer’s Association".

Dementia is often not recognized

It is important that in the future cases of dementia are recognized more effectively in hospitals. This is the only way to help those affected and provide them with appropriate treatment, the researchers emphasize. Dementia patients are often hospitalized for other complaints, often because they cannot take care of themselves. In many cases, however, the dementia is not recognized, the scientists say.

Over a third of the cases of dementia were not recognized

For their study, the experts examined patients who had already been diagnosed with dementia and who were subsequently admitted to various hospitals for a reason other than their dementia. The clinics found no dementia in more than a third of the cases in 2016, although the disease had been diagnosed a year before hospital admission.

Care needs to be better adapted

However, this was an improvement over 2008, when hospitals were unable to identify dementia in more than half of the patients, the doctors explain. People with dementia are more likely to be admitted to hospitals because of other illnesses, in part because of difficulties in taking care of themselves. People with dementia are generally prone to longer hospital stays and more complications, explains study author Dr. Andrew Sommerlad from University College London. The hospital files must accurately reflect the patient's condition so that the doctors can adapt their care accordingly, the experts demand.

21,387 patients were examined for the study

If people with dementia leave the hospital without a diagnosis of dementia, they may need help when it comes to implementing treatment plans or taking medication. However, such help can only be given if the condition has been determined beforehand. For its study, the research team examined a total of 138,455 hospitalizations from 21,387 people between 2008 and 2016, including 37,329 admissions from 8,246 patients who had dementia before hospitalization. The hospitals recognized such a disease in 63.3 percent of inpatients with a previous diagnosis of dementia.

Hospital staff need better training

In hospitals, dementia was generally found less often in younger people and people with serious physical illnesses, the scientists say. However, it is very important that the employees look for signs and symptoms of the disease when they are admitted, so that everyone concerned receives the specialized support that they need in the hospital. Hospitals can be a daunting environment for people with dementia, the researchers say. It must be ensured that all hospital staff receive better training in order to recognize the signs of dementia more effectively. Because without the right support, the symptoms often get worse. The current study also showed that most patients with dementia in the hospital became increasingly confused. (as)

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