The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging, followed 1,870 seniors who took brief tests measuring cognitive abilities every three years. Researchers found that the composite measure of global cognition declined a mean of 0.031 units per year before hospitalization. After hospitalization, the composite measure of global cognition declined at a rate of 0.075 units per year. Although individuals with more severe illnesses saw a more pronounced decline, the increased rate of cognitive decline was seen regardless of the illness' severity.
Researchers remarked that this study suggests more effective primary prevention could help slow cognitive decline by keeping seniors out of hospitals. Experts also stressed that hospitals should take a long term approach by emphasizing behaviors that keep seniors strong, like getting out of bed and having contact with others. "Perhaps we should be rethinking how aggressively we hospitalize older people, particularly older people that have pre-existing cognitive impairment," said Dr. Robert S. Wilson, who led the study. "And perhaps we should be treating older people with cognitive impairment when they are hospitalized differently than we are now."
Read more about the study: Cognitive Decline After Hospitalization in a Community Population of Older Persons.
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