Are Hospitals Dangerous For Seniors?
March 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
A recent article from the Associated Press (AP) reported, “at least one-third of hospital patients older than 70 leave more frail than when they arrived, and many become too weak to go home. Nursing home care or rehabilitation often are needed, and even then, research suggests more than two-thirds remain weaker a year after being in the hospital.”
It almost seems absurd to think that the one place that is supposed to help patients heal may actually do more harm than good. You may have had or know someone who has had an elderly relative enter the hospital with pneumonia or something similar only to leave the hospital worse off physically than when they were admitted.
Besides treating disease, elder-care experts and advocates feel hospitals should also focus on preventing frailty in patients. They suggest addressing this problem by making some simple changes in the way they treat the elderly. Things like offering better food, encouraging patients to get out of bed more and updating the décor can help make a patients stay less damaging to their physicality.
“If you can change the age at which people lose function they may live longer, better lives,” said Dr. Kenneth Covinsky, a geriatrics specialist who wrote about the issue recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The AP article states, “Days of bed rest raise chances for infection, can slow recovery from common conditions in the elderly including pneumonia, and contribute to surprisingly rapid loss of muscle strength in older patients.”
In order to prevent elderly patients from leaving the hospital more frail, facilities are instituting practices such as walking paths in the hospital so patients get daily exercise beyond standard physical therapy. Some hospitals have changed their meal practices to make sure patients are actually eating. One institution uses high school students to sit with patients so they aren’t lonely during meals. And a few hospitals have worked on their aesthetics to make patients feel more at ease. Adding homey touches like carpeting, warm lighting and curtains can help make seniors relaxed during their stay.
Of course the biggest obstacle holding hospitals back from making these changes is cost. At a time when many facilities are operating on tight budgets, adding these extras may be out of reach. However experts say that making these changes decreased a patients typical stay by half a day and over the course of a year those half days can make a big difference in hospital expense.
The Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients. Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.