Incidence of potentially disruptive medical and social events in older adults with and without dementia

Lauren J. Hunt, R. Sean Morrison, Siqi Gan, Edie Espejo, Katherine A. Ornstein, W. John Boscardin, Alexander K. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Potentially disruptive medical, surgical, and social events—such as pneumonia, hip fracture, and widowhood—may accelerate the trajectory of decline and impact caregiving needs in older adults, especially among people with dementia (PWD). Prior research has focused primarily on nursing home residents with dementia. We sought to assess the incidence of potentially disruptive events in community-dwelling people with and without dementia. Methods: Retrospective cohort study of participants aged 65+ enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study between 2010 and 2018 (n = 9346), including a subset who were married–partnered at baseline (n = 5105). Dementia was defined with a previously validated algorithm. We calculated age-adjusted and gender-stratified incidence per 1000 person-years and incidence rate ratios of: 1) hospitalization for pneumonia, 2) hip fracture, and 3) widowhood in people with and without dementia. Results: PWD (n = 596) were older (mean age 84 vs. 75) and a higher proportion were female (67% vs. 57%) than people without dementia (PWoD) (n = 8750). Age-adjusted incidence rates (per 1000 person-years) of pneumonia were higher in PWD (113.1; 95% CI 94.3, 131.9) compared to PWoD (62.1; 95% CI 54.7, 69.5), as were hip fractures (12.3; 95% CI 9.1, 15.6 for PWD compared to 8.1; 95% CI 6.9, 9.2 in PWoD). Point estimates of widowhood incidence were slightly higher for PWD (25.3; 95% CI 20.1, 30.5) compared to PWoD (21.9; 95% CI 20.3, 23.5), but differences were not statistically significant. The association of dementia with hip fracture—but not pneumonia or widowhood—was modified by gender (male incidence rate ratio [IRR] 2.24, 95% CI 1.34, 3.75 versus female IRR 1.31 95% CI 0.92,1.86); interaction term p = 0.02). Conclusions: Compared to PWoD, community-dwelling PWD had higher rates of pneumonia and hip fracture, but not widowhood. Knowing how often PWD experience these events can aid in anticipatory guidance and care planning for this growing population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461-1470
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • dementia
  • hip fracture
  • pneumonia
  • widowhood


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