Acute hospital care: how much activity is attributable to caring for patients with dementia?

QJM. 2016 Jan;109(1):41-4. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcv085. Epub 2015 May 7.


Background: People with dementia are among the most frequent service users in the acute hospital. Despite this, the acute hospital is not organized in a manner that best addresses their needs.

Methods: We examined acute dementia care over a 3-year period from 2010 to 2012 in a 600-bed university hospital, to clarify the service activity and costs attributable to acute dementia care.

Results: Nine hundred and twenty-nine patients with dementia were admitted during the study period, accounting for 1433/69 718 (2%) of all inpatient episodes, comprising 44 449/454 169 (10%) of total bed days. The average length of stay was 31.0 days in the dementia group and 14.1 days in those >65 years without dementia. The average hospital care cost was almost three times more (€13 832) per patient with dementia, compared with (€5404) non-dementia patients, accounting for 5% (almost €20 000 000) of the total hospital casemix budget for the period.

Discussion: Service activity attributable to dementia care in the acute hospital is considerable. Moreover, given the fact that a significant minority of cognitive impairment goes unrecognized after acute admissions, it is likely that this is under-representative of the full impact of dementia in acute care. Although the money currently being spent on acute dementia care is considerable, it is being used to provide a service that does not meet its user needs adequately. It is clear that acute hospitals need to provide a more 'dementia friendly' service for acutely unwell older persons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics*
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs / trends*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Length of Stay / economics*
  • Male