One in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013 had a hospital stay that was preventable, according to data presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
The research team, which analyzed Medicare claims from 2013, found that a significant number of Alzheimer’s patients were hospitalized for conditions like dehydration and hypoglycemia, according to an article from Medpage Today, costing about $2.6 billion a year.
"We found a lot of patients who go to the hospital for things that should not have happened, and this is costing a lot of money," researcher Pei-Jun Lin, Ph.D., of Tufts University Medical Center, told HealthDay.
The analysis found that about 280,000, or about 10 percent of Alzheimer’s patients, were hospitalized for such manageable conditions, according to the article. The team documented 369,000 avoidable hospitalizations, meaning some patients were admitted to the hospital multiple times for conditions that could have been treating in an outpatient setting.
Lin told Medpage Today that hospital stays may also pose other dangers for patients with Alzheimer’s, as the experience can be extremely disorienting. Admitting Alzheimer’s patients needlessly can also increase infection risk and the stress on caregivers, according to the article. "If you imagine someone who has no grasp of reality, if you put them in the hospital, they can get even more confused and even more disoriented," Lin told HealthDay.
Alzheimer’s patients with two or more simultaneous conditions were most likely to be hospitalized, according to Medpage Today, so Lin said it is important that those secondary conditions be managed better. Lin, who is also the project director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts Medical Center, told HealthDay that 75 percent of Alzheimer's patients are estimated to have multiple health conditions and they may not be able to care for themselves.
To help reduce care gaps, providers must write down medications and their frequency of use, and should encourage caregivers to connect with local agencies and social workers for a care plan, Nina Silverberg, Ph.D, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Centers program at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, told HealthDay.