Dementia, a neurodegenerative and debilitating illness can take a toll on the life of older adults. In a recent report, the number of patients with dementia being rushed to emergency rooms rose by a staggering 35 percent in five years, with some patients stuck in hospitals for months.
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A new report released by the Alzheimer’s Society shows that from 2017 to 2018, there were a total of 379,004 emergency hospital admissions a year. with 40,000 of those spending more than a month in the hospital. The figures, which were from the NHS England’s Hospital Episode Statistics dataset, reveals that there is more than 1,000 emergency admission a day in the United Kingdom.
Dementia is a syndrome in where people develop deterioration in thinking, memory, behavior, and the ability to perform daily activities. There are an estimated 50 million people living with dementia across the globe, and about 10 million new cases are being diagnosed each year. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for about 60 to 70 percent of cases.
From those who were admitted to the hospital for more than a month, 412 patients were stuck for between six months and a year. The sudden increase of emergency admissions among dementia patients has cost the NHS about $365 million each year.
Collapsing social care system
The new data shows the reality of many people living with dementia that are affected by the collapsing social care system. The major complaints and reasons for admission in the hospital include dehydration, infections, and falls. One of the reasons for these emergency cases is due to the scarce, expensive, and inadequate support for people in their homes or in care homes across the nation.
Many of dementia-stricken patients can’t afford to get the care they need. In some cases, due to the lack of support for people with the disease to stay in their homes, most of them end up in hospital beds, costing more money. Further, hospitals are not a good place for people with dementia, since they are usually stuck in their beds.
According to Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Executive, many dementia patients are admitted because there’s no social care support provided to maintain safety in their homes.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for diseases and conditions marked by a decline in memory, cognitive abilities, problem-solving, language, and the ability to perform activities of daily living. One of the most noticeable signs of dementia is memory loss.
Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is the most common cause of progressive dementia in seniors. Dementia is irreversible and there’s no cure for it, however, social support and adequate healthcare can help slow down its progression and help people with the disease to live normal lives with independence.
The coming signs and symptoms of dementia include cognitive and psychological changes. In cognitive changes, the person can experience memory loss, which is mild at first and progresses. Problems with communication like finding the right words, difficulty handling complicated tasks, problems with reasoning, difficulties in solving problems, issues with planning, and organizing, and getting lost due to problems with special and visual abilities, among others.
Some people may have psychological changes, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, personality changes, inappropriate behavior, hallucinations, and agitation.
Dementia is usually caused by damage to nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Some types of dementia have other causes. For instance, Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia, but it has been linked to patients having plaques and tangles in the brain, causing damage to healthy neurons and their fiber connections to each other.
Alzheimer’s Society. (2020). Figures show big increase in emergency admissions for dementia patients. The BMJ. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m249