Improving care of older adults with dementia: description of 6299 hospitalizations over 11 years in a special acute care unit

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012 Jun;13(5):486.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2011.12.058. Epub 2012 Jan 20.


Objective: To describe hospitalizations in a Special Acute Care inpatient Unit for older adults with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other related disorders.

Design: An 11-year observational study of consecutive hospitalizations from 1996 to 2006.

Setting: The Alzheimer Special Acute Care inpatient Unit in the Geriatrics Department of the Toulouse University Hospital, France.

Participants: A total of 4708 patients with dementia accounting for 6299 consecutive hospitalizations.

Measurements: Data regarding admission causes, cognition, physical disability, nutritional assessment, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, and sociodemographics were recorded.

Results: Data from 6299 hospitalizations are presented: 4708 (74.7%) hospitalizations accounted for first-time admissions and 1591 (25.3%) were rehospitalizations. Among the first-time admissions, complications of dementia and cognitive diagnosis experienced a significant switch in frequency. Whereas until 2001, the main cause of admission was for a diagnosis (51%), complications became the primary cause from 2003 onward with a significant increasing trend (56%) (P < .001). The most frequent cause of complications was behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, with a significant trend for an increased frequency (P < .001). Agitation-aggressiveness represented 60% of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Between 1996 and 2006, the age of patients at first-time admission gradually increased over time, as did the severity of cognitive impairment and the prevalence of unsatisfactory nutritional status (P for trend < .001 for each variable).

Conclusions: The evolving patient characteristics and the causes of first-time admissions changed over the course of 11 years. Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, especially agitation-aggressiveness, have progressively become the key drivers of Special Acute Care inpatient Unit hospitalizations. These findings suggest that the role, mission, and functioning of the Special Acute Care inpatient Unit within the Alzheimer care system has been modified over time.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • France
  • Hospital Units*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Quality of Health Care*