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Dementia patients suffer in hospital and why exercise could help with dementia and receiving hospital care

A round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 12 March

People with dementia end up in hospital more often, stay longer and are much more likely to die there because their medical needs are neglected in care homes and hospitals, reports The Guardian and other newspapers this morning.

The findings by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) prompted the Alzheimer’s Society to warn that places of care are ‘playing Russian roulette’ with the lives of dementia sufferers and that a Mid Staffordshire style scandal could happen because such patients’ basic needs are being overlooked.

The CQC found that care homes were not preventing, detecting or properly treating problems such as dehydration, pneumonia, malnutrition and urinary infections in people with dementia in care homes in 78 out of 151 primary care trust areas of England (52%). Care home staff there are also missing bed sores, lower respiratory tract infections and broken bones in residents with serious memory loss, CQC inspectors found.

Although 80% of those living in care homes have dementia, many staff have not had training in how to deal with them and support them properly, the Alzheimer’s Society said.

These failings mean that people with dementia often end up having to be admitted to hospital when better care could have kept them in their usual surroundings, and that once in hospital they can find their needs not recognised, or are not given specialist help, the regulator found.

Lifelong exercise can lead to improved brain function in later life, a study has shown. People perform better in mental tests at the age of 50 if they have engaged in regular intense activity, such as playing sport, running, swimming or working out in the gym, since childhood.

More than 9,000 individuals took part in the research from the age of 11, writes The Guardian.

Interviews were conducted at regular age intervals to monitor levels of exercise. Participants also undertook tests of memory, attention and learning.

Those who had exercised two to three times per month or more from the age of 11 scored higher in the tests than those who had not.

Study leader Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said: ‘As exercise represents a key component of lifestyle interventions to prevent cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, public health interventions to promote lifelong exercise have the potential to reduce the personal and social burden associated with these conditions in late adult years.’

The findings are published on Tuesday in the journal Psychological Medicine. Government guidelines say that adults aged 19 to 64 should exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.

‘It’s widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind,’ said Dr Dregan. ‘However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive wellbeing in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further.’

Patients who exercise regularly and avoid fatty foods should go to the front of the queue for NHS operations, a controversial think-tank report urges today.

People should be able to use supermarket bills and gym membership forms to prove they lead healthy lives and access priority non-emergency treatment, according to Demos, writes The Independent.

It also suggests that welfare claimants who exercise regularly should be given larger payments in recognition that they are behaving responsibly.

The think tank acknowledged its proposals were controversial, but insisted it wanted to reward people who took positive steps to lower their risk of needing medical care rather than to penalise those who were lazy or followed poor diets.

Demos is urging ministers to follow the lead of insurance companies which already offer incentives to customers to lead healthier lifestyles by offering them discounts on gym memberships. ‘There is scope for the NHS to provide its non-emergency services in a way that takes account of responsible behaviour,’ it argues in a new report.

But Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Proactive investment in prevention, public campaigns and health literacy can deliver change more constructively than punitive sanctions.’

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