How the elderly are more likely to lose their memory if they are taken to hospital: Unfamiliar surroundings and loss of independence are blamed
23:35 GMT, 21 March 2012
A recent study that more frequent visits to the hospital increase the chances for the elderly of developing dementia
The elderly are more likely to lose their memory if they are taken to hospital, research reveals.
Their ability to remember names or events and concentrate on tasks declines sharply after only a few days on wards.
Experts believe it may be triggered by the unfamiliar hospital environment or the sudden loss of independence.
Researchers studied 1,870 older people over a period of 12 years.
They underwent memory tests every three years to check their ability to remember details of a story or key names and events.
Over the course of the study, 1,335 people were admitted to hospital at least once and they stayed for an average of five days. The American researchers found that their average ‘cognitive function’ – or ability to process thoughts and remember names and events – declined two and a half times quicker if they had been in hospital.
Once a person’s cognitive function declines they are far more likely to develop dementia.
Dr Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, said: ‘Understanding a possible link to something as common as hospital stays is extremely important.’
He said that if other studies backed up his findings, the elderly should be encouraged to leave hospital sooner to lessen the effects.
Scientists believe recalling people's names and places after spending a mere days in a hospital ward
Dr Wilson added: ‘Further research may
help to develop strategies to prevent medical problems in older people
that lead to hospital stays.
‘It could also lead to changes in hospital inpatient and discharge policies.’
Experts think the noisy, unfamiliar surroundings of a hospital may have a long-term effect on an elderly person’s memory.
It may also be triggered by the loss
of independence and not having to concentrate on daily tasks such as
cooking, cleaning or even dressing themselves,
Around 750,000 Britons are thought to have some form of dementia, but this is expected to rise to 1 million by 2021.