Hospital Delirium: Cognitive Decline After Hospitalization
In the expected course of treatment, people are hospitalized because they are ill. Then, barring a terminal condition, they are released because they are better. Once home, people recover further, and continue on with their lives as well as their original illness allows them to. Unfortunately, with elderly people, this best-case scenario doesn’t always happen.
Cognitive Decline Following Hospitalization
Sometimes a senior experiences a noticeable cognitive decline post-hospitalization. Families and caregivers are left wanting to know what happened and wondering if their loved one will ever be cognitively the same as they were before hospitalization. Each case is unique, but according to many studies, the cognitive functioning of some elders may not fully recover from the trauma.
Why are some elders subject to returning home from a hospitalization cognitively worse? Experts are studying this problem with varying results, but many agree that there are multiple conditions at play that can result in an elderly person suffering cognitive decline after hospitalization. Although there is no conclusive evidence that hospitalization can lead to dementia, the medical community calls the condition “hospital delirium,” a condition that the American Geriatrics Society estimates affects about one-third of patients over 70, particularly those who are in intensive care or who undergo surgery.
A Personal Experience: My first encounter with this happened many years ago. My dad went into surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by fluid buildup behind scar tissue from a World War II injury. Dad went into surgery after being told that it would prevent dementia. He came out of surgery in a severe state of dementia that was never explained. The dementia remained until he died, a decade later.
Seeing my intelligent, gentle, funny dad turn into another man in a matter of hours was life-changing. Almost worse, however, was the blank look of the doctors who insisted that Dad was “no different” than before the surgery, even though…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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