A career in science and medicine was always a dream for Dr. Sara LaHue. Her family bought her toy microscopes when she was young and she looked up to her chemist grandfather. But when she was a teenager and her grandmother began to show signs of cognitive impairment, pursuing that dream became more real.
“Watching her personality change and her memories disappear really set me on a path to better understand cognitive impairment and psychology,” she said about her grandmother, who was eventually diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. “Much of my passion for this is really related to my family.”
Her research now focuses on recognizing and preventing another form of cognitive impairment with a different cause: delirium in older hospital patients.
She documented how delirium in the hospital increased later emergency department visits and readmissions — and also showed that hospitals can help patients avoid delirium if they screen them first, orient them to their surroundings, and help them sleep without using drugs.
“I think we’re getting a better understanding that cognitive impairment is not a part of healthy aging,”
Using RNA sequencing, she also discovered molecular differences between inpatients with and without delirium, and between inpatients who had delirium from urinary tract infections compared to other causes.
“I think we’re getting a better understanding that cognitive impairment is not a part of healthy aging,” she said.
— STAT Staff