Patients in Hospital with Dementia Face ‘Russian Roulette’ for Care

January 18th, 2016

A charity has warned that patients admitted to hospital with dementia in England are subjecting their health to a ‘Russian roulette’.

During a review, The Alzheimer’s Society says it has found “shocking” indications that care is variable and poor. The charity called for all hospitals to publish a yearly statement of dementia care, including information on staff training, falls, readmissions and satisfaction.

Based on FOI (Freedom of Information) requests, the report said standards urgently need improvement and found problems with readmissions, falls and night-time discharges. Currently, one in four hospital beds is said to be occupied by a dementia patient.

The Alzheimer’s Society received a response from 50% of England’s 163 hospital trusts regarding the FOI request, but for some of the questions the figures were based on one fifth of trusts because not all hospitals were able to give an answer to all the questions.

The report showed that more than 50% of those aged over 65 readmitted in the worst-performing trust within a month (a mark of inappropriate care) had dementia. It also showed that more than one in four people aged over 65 who suffered a fall had dementia, however in some trusts this figure topped 70%. 1 in 10 people aged over 65 who were discharged in the night were dementia patients and in the worst trusts, the numbers rose to nearly 4 in 10. In the worst-performing establishments, dementia patients stayed 5-7 times longer than other patients aged over 65.

The Alzheimer’s Society also conducted a study of dementia patients. The results showed examples of patients being left in soiled or wet sheets, not being provided adequate help with drinks and meals and being treated with excessive force. 9 in 10 of patients surveyed said they were frightened by hospitals and only 2% believed that all the staff understood their needs.

These findings were described as unacceptable by the charity, which believes them to be a sign that patients with dementia were not receiving adequate standards of care.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said that in the worst cases, people with dementia have no way to know what’s going to happen to them after admission, making hospital care for dementia patients like a Russian roulette.

He said that in many cases, patients are well looked after. However the investigation shows that patients with dementia are admitted into hospital despite finishing medical treatment, discharged overnight and suffer falls far too often.

A spokesperson from the Department of health said that dementia is a key priority and £50m has been spent in recent years on making care homes and hospitals more “dementia friendly”. Additionally, 500,000 staff have received further training.

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