Researchers are working to understand why hospitalization is one of the leading causes of delirium in the elderly.

A hospital stay is not something a senior looks forward to, but at least there’s the reassuring fact that the necessary care and treatment will be delivered to provide healing. But what happens when the results aren’t as expected, and the older adult ends up with a new health concern? More and more often, hospitalizations are seen as a leading cause of delirium in the elderly.

Coined “ICU psychosis” by geriatrician Sharon Inouye of Harvard Medical School, hospital delirium is both “underrecognized and underdiagnosed.” And possibly even more concerning, in up to 40% of the cases, the condition is preventable in seniors. It is thought to be the result of the bright, active atmosphere that makes sleeping difficult, or by a particular medication an older adult has been prescribed, such as a narcotic or anti-anxiety prescription.

Research studies are showing that the longer a senior remains in the hospital, the greater chance he or she will develop hospital delirium. And the impact can be both severe and long-lasting. An astonishing 8 out of 10 adult ICU patients exhibited markedly lower cognitive test results than usual (according to education and age predictors), in spite of the fact that only 6% had any cognitive impairment before the hospitalization. Furthermore, up to 2/3 of the patients showed a level of impairment that would be expected in a person with mild Alzheimer’s disease or even a TBI.

It is not possible to avoid hospitalizations for older adults, so what is the best way to manage this growing concern? One particular solution is a program called HELP, Inouye’s Hospital Elder Life Program. It is currently available in 200 hospitals throughout the U.S. and is making strides in preventing hospital delirium through visits from trained volunteers who offer assistance to help seniors stay oriented.

Inouye is also using the CAM scale (Confusion Assessment Method) to help assess awareness and the cause of delirium in the elderly, and is working to encourage alternate methods to address anxiety – such as the comfort of a companion in the place of strong anti-anxiety medications.

Home With You Senior Care, a licensed provider of senior care in Howard County, MD and nearby areas, is also here to help in numerous ways. Our experienced home care team can:

  • Offer friendly companionship
  • Provide medication reminders
  • Prevent falls in the home
  • Pick up groceries and prepare healthy meals
  • And so much more

Our home care services are available to help older adults avoid the re-hospitalizations that may result in hospital delirium. When a hospital visit is needed, however, we can help seniors transition back safely and comfortably to home and keep a close eye on their condition.

Contact us at 410-756-0959 for a free in-home assessment to discover more about our senior care in Howard County, MD and the surrounding communities, and how we can improve health outcomes for a senior you love.