Tufts University LogoA novel study has revealed that older patients with dementia are believed to have been diagnosed with flu less frequently, have shorter hospital stays, and have a 50% increased rate of death as compared to those without the disorder.

Study experts seem to have defined dementia as cognitive impairment to the extent that normal activity is impaired. More so, it may perhaps cause distinctive obstacles to the early diagnosis and treatment of flu. In addition, patients could possibly have trouble communicating symptoms and medical complications because of poor oral hygiene or impaired swallowing. The authors were of the opinion that limited access to health care services and insufficient testing practices may possibly add to increased rates of mortality. Also, lower rates of diagnosis of flu could be observed in older patients suffering from dementia.

“The increased mortality of older patients with dementia hospitalized for flu may be indicative of inadequacies in health care quality and accessibility. It could be beneficial to refine guidelines for the immunization, testing, and treatment of flu in older patients with dementia when planning for the possibility of flu pandemic,” says lead and senior author of the study, Elena Naumova, PhD, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

A geographic investigation of the data showed that pneumonia and influenza (P&I) rates seem to be the highest among older adults in poor and rural areas, where there is a lower awareness of health care facilities.

Naumova, director of the Tufts University Initiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Diseases (Tufts InForMID) further said that, “Limited access to specialized health care services can delay diagnosis and treatment of the flu, causing it to progress to pneumonia, the fifth leading cause of death among the elderly. This study has helped us identify this vulnerable population, and now further study is needed to confirm the findings and assess the testing and vaccination policies for older patients with dementia.”

For the purpose of the study, the authors were believed to have gathered the data from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), which covered a span of five years, from 1998 to 2002. Further, the demographic and geographic patterns of P&I hospitalizations and their links with hospital accessibility were observed to have been explored.

The findings of the study revealed that of the 36 million hospitalization records for adults aged 65 and older, more than six million records seem to have been recognized as P&I diagnosis. Also, of these records showing a P&I diagnosis, over 800,000 i.e. 13% appeared to have shown dementia.

The study authors were noted to have compared pneumonia and influenza admissions, length of stay in a hospital, and mortality rates among elderly with dementia to national estimates. This study was known to be called as ‘Pneumonia and influenza hospitalizations in elderly people with dementia.’

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.