Lead author Lee Lindquist says seniors who are hospitalized may experience temporary memory loss and difficulty in understanding discharge instructions.
The study involved more than 200 seniors -- age 70 and older -- who lived on their own in the Chicago area and were not diagnosed with dementia or other cognitive problems. They were given cognition tests to examine mental status after being hospitalized.
The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, finds almost one-third had low cognition that had been previously unrecognized. One month later, 58 percent of those patients no longer had low cognition and had improved in areas of orientation, registration, repetition, comprehension, naming, reading, writing and calculation.
Screening all seniors for cognition before they leave any hospital may help flag patients in need of specialized transitional care with more frequent follow-up after hospitalization, Lindquist says.
"When the senior is no longer sick enough to be in the hospital, it doesn't mean they're 100 percent ready to be on their own," Lindquist says in a statement. "It's a critical time and they need extra support and understanding from healthcare professionals and family."