Dementia in older people admitted to hospital: a regional multi-hospital observational study of prevalence, associations and case recognition

Age Ageing. 2015 Nov;44(6):993-9. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv131. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Background: Previous studies have indicated a prevalence of dementia in older admissions of ∼42% in a single London teaching hospital, and 21% in four Queensland hospitals. However, there is a lack of published data from any European country on the prevalence of dementia across hospitals and between patient groups.

Objective: To determine the prevalence and associations of dementia in older patients admitted to acute hospitals in Ireland.

Methods: Six hundred and six patients aged ≥70 years were recruited on admission to six hospitals in Cork County. Screening consisted of Standardised Mini-Mental State Examination (SMMSE); patients with scores <27/30 had further assessment with the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE). Final expert diagnosis was based on SMMSE, IQCODE and relevant medical and demographic history. Patients were screened for delirium and depression, and assessed for co-morbidity, functional ability and nutritional status.

Results: Of 598 older patients admitted to acute hospitals, 25% overall had dementia; with 29% in public hospitals. Prevalence varied between hospitals (P < 0.001); most common in rural hospitals and acute medical admissions. Only 35.6% of patients with dementia had a previous diagnosis. Patients with dementia were older and frailer, with higher co-morbidity, malnutrition and lower functional status (P < 0.001). Delirium was commonly superimposed on dementia (57%) on admission.

Conclusion: Dementia is common in older people admitted to acute hospitals, particularly in acute medical admissions, and rural hospitals, where services may be less available. Most dementia is not previously diagnosed, emphasising the necessity for cognitive assessment in older people on presentation to hospital.

Keywords: acute hospital; awareness; cognitive impairment; dementia; older people; screening.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires