Hospitalization can be a traumatic experience for seniors due to the risk of functional decline. In a study by Scielo, 28% of older adults lost functional capacity 15 to 30 days after being admitted into the hospital. The reason why the elderly pose such a risk of functional decline during hospitalization is because of severe illnesses and decreased mobility from bedrest which also causes pressure injuries, pain, dehydration and malnutrition. Without the ability to be mobile and active the elderly are prone to longer hospital stays and the need for rehab. Moreover, being discharged from the hospital can cause transfer trauma which is also known as the stress that a person may experience when changing living environments.
Before we dive deep into this article, we suggest that you also read our blog post on, Preventing Hospitalization of Seniors. This piece explains the importance of practicing proper observation techniques to eliminate unnecessary rehospitalizations. Furthermore, it is important to know how hospitalization impacts the elderly and what strategies have been identified to reduce worsening hospital stays.
According to NHS Improvement, “A stay in the hospital over 10 days leads to 10 years of muscle aging for some people who are most at risk.” This derives from decreased mobility which stems from bedrest syndrome. The impact this has on seniors not only affects their muscles, bones and skin but also the cardiovascular, respiratory, urinary, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems of the body. One of the best ways to combat this is to encourage activity during hospitalization. With the use of organized exercise, walking and physical therapy, you can ensure that your elderly loved one continues to stay as healthy as possible.
Many major hospital centers have the tools to monitor and manage a patient’s health conditions. Early detection of deterioration during hospitalization can help reduce the amount of time a loved one needs to stay at a hospital. Also, comprehensive geriatric assessments should be conducted to understand the individual’s physical, psychosocial and function status before being admitted. Not only will this promote safety while engaging independence, but it will also assist with maintaining dignity.
Studies show that functional decline can arise as early as the second day hospitalized. It is recommended to partake in a strategy that follows the proper steps to reduce the functional decline in hospitalized seniors. Try to find a senior facility that has a program that aims to do just that for your loved one such as providing around-the-clock care after dismissal from the hospital to help assess as well as keep them on a healthy path to reduce the risk of additional hospitalizations.