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Unplanned hospital readmissions of older people with learning disabilities

Study looks at hospital readmissions among older people with learning disabilities compared with the general population

Study looks at hospital readmissions among older people with learning disabilities compared with the general population


Picture: Charles Milligan

Studies have examined hospital readmission rates as an indicator of premature discharge and poor quality of service, but this has been little explored in relation to readmissions of older adults with learning disabilities, especially relating to physical health conditions.

A number of known risk factors for failed discharges and hospital readmissions in the general population appear to disproportionately affect people with learning disabilities. These include particular health conditions, as well as polypharmacy and exposure to a range of known determinants of health inequalities.

This Swedish study confirmed that differing patterns of readmission could not be explained solely by the increased prevalence of some disorders among people with learning disabilities.

The researchers looked at patterns of unplanned readmissions – within 30 days of discharge – taking a cohort of 7,936 people with learning disabilities and aged 55 or older and comparing them with an age- and a gender-matched group from the general population.

Increased risk

A 20% increased risk of readmission was noted among people with learning disabilities, most likely due to diseases of the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, and diseases of the respiratory and digestive systems.

The authors suggest that communication difficulties between healthcare practitioners and people with learning disabilities need to be properly considered and acknowledged to avoid premature discharges and early readmissions.

This needs to be a key area of focus for UK learning disability nurses when trying to plan effective transitions from hospital.


Research

Axmon A, Björkman M, Ahlström G (2019) Hospital readmissions among older people with intellectual disability in comparison with the general population. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 63, 6, 593-602.


Dave Atkinson is an independent nurse consultant

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