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Study: Better flu testing needed for patients with dementia

Category: Infectious Diseases

After contracting the flu or pneumonia, seniors with dementia face a 50 percent higher mortality rate than those without the cognitive disorder, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the Tufts University School of Medicine analyzed hospitalization records from the U.S. Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Service to examine the impact of dementia on people over 65 years old who fall ill. In total, the study looked at data on 36 million patients between 1998 and 2002.

The study, reported in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, suggested that limited access to healthcare services and insufficient testing practices may contribute to lower rates of flu diagnosis in older patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Furthermore, the early diagnosis among the population studied can often be impaired by poor communication.

"Limited access to specialized healthcare services can delay diagnosis and treatment of the flu," said Elena Naumova, a professor of public health at Tufts. "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."

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.

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