Hospitals fail to spot dementia in over a third of patients

25 April 2018 08:56

Dementia patients are frequently admitted to hospital for other ailments

Dementia patients are frequently admitted to hospital for other ailments

Hospitals are failing to notice that more than a third of dementia patients suffer from the condition, a new study has found.

They are now being urged to properly identify in-patients, so that the appropriate treatment can be given and the patients discharged safely.

Other ailments

Dementia patients are frequently admitted to hospital for other ailments, often as a result of not being able to look after themselves properly.

The study, led by University College London (UCL), tracked patients who were diagnosed with dementia and subsequently admitted to various general hospitals for reasons other than their dementia.

Hospitals failed to note the condition in more than a third of case notes in 2016, despite some patients having been diagnosed with dementia in the year before their hospital admission.

However, this is an improvement from several years ago. According to the study which has been published in the journal 'Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal Of The Alzheimer's Association', in 2008, hospitals failed to recognise a dementia diagnosis in more than half of sufferers.

Lead author Dr Andrew Sommerlad, a Wellcome Trust research fellow from UCL's division of psychiatry, said: "While it is great that there is some improvement, a third of people with dementia are discharged from hospital without it being recognised that they have dementia."

"Crucial"

The team examined 138,455 hospital admissions from 21,387 people between 2008 and 2016, including 37,329 admissions of 8,246 people who had known dementia before their general hospital admission.

Overall, between 2008 and 2016, hospitals recognised dementia in 63.3% of inpatients with a previous dementia diagnosis, no matter how recently they'd been diagnosed.

People from ethnic minority backgrounds are almost twice as likely to have missed diagnoses in general hospitals compared to white patients, the authors found.

And hospital staff are also less likely to recognise dementia for single patients, younger people, and people with more severe physical illnesses.

Dominic Carter, senior policy officer at the Alzheimer's Society charity, said, "Hospital can be a terrifying environment for people with dementia.

"It's crucial that on admission, staff are looking for signs and symptoms, so anyone affected can get the specialised support they need while they're in hospital.

"With 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, and an estimated one million by 2021, the need for better diagnosis and tailored healthcare support has never been more pressing."

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