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Nurs Clin North Am. 2004 Sep;39(3):561-79.

Dementia and serious coexisting medical conditions: a double whammy.

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Alzheimer's Association, 1319 F Street, Northwest, Suite 710, Washington, DC 20004, USA.


Research-based information about the prevalence of other serious medical conditions in people with dementia has become available only recently, and the true prevalence is not known, primarily because many people with dementia do not have a diagnosis. The existing information is sufficient, however, to show that these other conditions are common in people with dementia. It is also clear that coexisting medical conditions increase the use and cost of health care services for people with dementia, and conversely, dementia increases the use and cost of health care services for people with other serious medical conditions. Nurses and other healthcare professionals should expect to see these relationships in their elderly patients. They should know how to recognize possible dementia and assess, or obtain an assessment of, the patient's cognitive status. They should expect the worsening of cognitive and related symptoms in acutely ill people with dementia and try to eliminate factors that cause this worsening, to the extent possible, while assuring the family that the symptoms are likely to improve once the acute phase of illness or treatment is over. Families, nurses, and other health care professionals are challenged by the complex issues involved in caring for a person with both dementia and other serious medical conditions. Greater attention to these issues by informed and thoughtful clinicians will improve outcomes for the people and their family and professional caregivers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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