Oct 8, 2010

Older Patients with Dementia at Increased Risk for Flu Mortality and the Flu IQ Test

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

We are heading toward flu season, so its time for Alzheimer's caregivers to be on their toes.

Many Alzheimer's patients are unable to say when they are feeling sick, or are ill. During flu season it is best to err on the side of caution.

As most of you know, Dotty never says she feels sick when I can already see that she sick. This is particularly true with urinary tract infections.

I am thinking back in time to when Dotty was diagnosed with pneumonia. I knew she was sick but she was not complaining. Fortunately, we caught it early and the medication worked almost immediately. The biggest problem I had back then was trying to convince her that she needed to rest. This problem was exacerbated by two simple facts: she didn't know she was sick, and she didn't remember that she was taking medication.

It is not unusual for Dotty to say to me when I am giving her medication, why am I talking this, what is it for, why do I have to take this? There is no yesterday or this morning for Dotty.

Dotty recently received her flu shot for the year.

Whether or not to administer a flu shot is a decision that must be considered carefully by each Alzheimer's caregiver.

While I decided to get the flu shot for Dotty, I am not a doctor.

Older Patients with Dementia at Increased Risk for Flu Mortality

Flu leads to pneumonia and can lead to death in someone suffering from dementia. People over 65 years of age suffering from the flu are more prone to die than any other age group.

An epidemiological study on pneumonia and influenza in adults age 65 and over reports that patients with dementia are diagnosed with flu less frequently, have shorter hospital stays, and have a fifty percent higher rate of death than those without dementia.

Dementia, defined by the authors as cognitive impairment to the extent that normal activity is impaired, causes unique obstacles to the early diagnosis and treatment of flu. Patients may have difficulty communicating symptoms and medical complications due to poor oral hygiene or impaired swallowing. Additionally, the authors believe that limited access to health care services and inadequate testing practices may contribute to the higher rates of mortality and lower rates of diagnosis of flu seen in older patients with dementia.

Source of information: Tufts University School of Medicine, the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,880 articles with more than 95,100 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room