Many families have experienced the decline of an elderly relative following a hospital visit, often confused about the nature and cause of their loved one's weakened health. Although many patients end a trip to the emergency room with a noted improvement, a recent report published by Neurology draws a connection between elderly cognitive impairment and hospitalization.
The report involved years of research and 1,870 senior participants who were tested for cognitive abilities regardless of whether they spent time in a hospital setting. Although many of those studied showed increasing impairment in memory and thinking regardless of hospitalization, the participants that never made a visit faired better overall in cognitive functioning.
"Is this cognitive insult caused by the illness that brought the patient to the hospital, or by what we do in the hospital?" asked Dr. Malaz Boustani, an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University, according to the New York Times. "It appears to be both."
The majority of participants, most of whom were in their 70s, did receive senior care at the hospital at some point during the duration of the study. In addition, many who ended up showing significant cognitive decline scored low in the initial screening, before a hospital visit even occurred. Researchers note that the problem can't yet be pinned to the actual visit since those needing a high level of care may already be in a state of decline.