When a senior breaks a bone or has a heart attack, a hospital can be the safest place for them. But entering the hospital also carries certain risks. Senior care professionals observe that seniors who go into the hospital may not go home the same. Sadly, they may not even go home at all. That’s why it’s imperative for the elderly to avoid preventable hospitalizations.
A preventable hospitalization is one where steps could have been taken to monitor and manage symptoms, prevent an accident, or correctly follow a physician’s orders and thus avoid the need for a trip to the hospital.
A survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, revealed that almost half of all hospitalizations could be prevented, according to nurses who specialize in senior care. The nurses surveyed also identified the top risks of hospitalization for the elderly and why prevention is so important. Here are three good reasons to help seniors avoid preventable hospitalizations.
1. Seniors are at risk of hospital-acquired infections
Many elderly people have weakened immune systems due to poor nutrition, medications or other causes. This makes them less able to fight off common infections that lurk in hospitals like MRSA, pneumonia and other bugs. Picking up one of these infections can have life-threatening consequences. Avoiding preventable hospitalizations reduces a senior’s exposure to these germs.
2. Once hospitalized, seniors often do not regain full function
Seniors may find it difficult or even impossible to restore muscle tone after being immobilized in a hospital bed. A hospitalization that results in muscle wasting can have a lifelong ripple effect. Weak muscles can lead to falls and other problems. Helping to keep seniors out of the hospital through prevention education can help them maintain their functionality. Prior to being released inquire with the medical staff at the hospital about Physical Therapy for them to regain strength. This may be outpatient or could be a list of exercises to do once home to rebuild their mobility and strength safely.
3. Seniors who have been hospitalized have a hard time getting back into their routine
While a younger person may bounce back quickly from a hospitalization, the same isn’t always true for seniors. As a person ages, his or her ability to adapt to changes in routine falters. The disruption caused by staying in the hospital can lead to confusion and other cognitive declines that make it difficult to get back to regular life at home. Avoiding preventable hospitalizations helps seniors stay well-grounded in their daily routines. If returning home alone after a hospitalization is at hand, perhaps a family member can stay with your aging loved one for a day or two to observe their needs and help out where they can. Many times, families will hire a home care aid to come in for a few days following discharge from the hospital to help re-acclimate back home. The caregiver will often prepare meals and have them ready for the senior to warm up after the caregiver’s visit ends to ensure healthy whole meals are served. Or to be present at the time of bathing to ensure no slip or falls. How many times have you had the flu and just taking a shower is exhausting? Imagine now your elderly mother showering and she is already weakened from her hospital stay; this could be a re-admittance waiting to happen.
Of course, no one would suggest an elderly person should avoid going to the hospital if he or she has experienced a life-threatening event, such as a possible heart attack, stroke or broken bone. Hospitals still represent a senior’s best chance for surviving these emergencies. Seniors should always seek a clinician’s advice if they’re unsure about the appropriate care for their situation.
By helping your senior loved ones understand the risks of preventable hospitalization for seniors, you may spur them to more closely monitor chronic health conditions, attend routine doctor appointments and comply with doctor’s orders. You can request a copy of our “Prevent Senior Hospitalizations” booklet from my office. Just call in and we will mail you a copy.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.