For people with dementia who have been living at home, being admitted to a general hospital, for whatever reason, often proves to be a turning point in the way they live the rest of their lives.
When the older person is due to be discharged from the hospital, decisions may well have to be made very quickly, and carers may feel under pressure to accept a place in a Home (for example to allow the release of the hospital bed, or to secure a place in a particular Home).
Decisions often don’t involve the person with dementia in any real way. But these quickly-made arrangements often turn out to be permanent ones.
Where to after hospital? A woman looks through a window.
Around half of all people admitted to Care Homes have come from general hospitals, and - currently - more than half of Care Home residents have dementia.
But while moving into a Care Home is often seen as an important way to avoid future dangers or health crises at home, for people with dementia who do live in Care Homes the prevalence of depression is high and quality of life is reported to be low.
Doctor Jeanne Katz and I (from The Open University's Faculty of Health and Social Care) are currently working on a research project called What happens to people with dementia after discharge from general hospital?
The research has been funded by the Alzheimer's Society and is led by an old age psychiatrist, Doctor Bartley Sheehan of the University of Warwick. The other co-investigators include an economist, Doctor Heather Gage of Surrey University; and a statistician, Doctor Ranjit Lall, Warwick Medical School.
Our aim is to track where people go after discharge from hospital to get a clearer picture of what might predict better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.
They might go home, move in with relatives, or move into extra care housing or to a Care Home. We also aim to estimate the costs of various kinds of care to individuals and families - and to society more generally.
Where people have moved into a Care Home after hospital, we are investigating how the transition to living in this different way is being experienced by both the person with dementia, and their family. This is the part of the research that Jeanne and I are most involved in: we have been talking to people in this situation about their expectations of residential care and their experiences, good and bad, of the reality of Care Home life.
This phase of the research will be completed by autumn 2010, when we will be able to report what people with dementia and their families have been telling us about their experiences of health and care services, and what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for them.