Our natural inclination to avoid the hospital at all cost may be more than simple fear of the unknown. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that many elderly patients who enter hospital sick or injured deteriorate during their stay and end up leaving more disabled than they arrived. Nearly a third of patients over 70 and more than half of those over 85 are discharged from hospital in worse shape than when they were admitted.
The hospital is a busy place where meeting the needs of seniors, such as providing help with feeding, bathing, dressing or walking, can often fall between the cracks. Seniors may also lack proper rest necessary for recovery in noisy wards where they are poked and prodded at all hours of the day and night.
By restricting movement with catheters and IVs, seniors are often left to spend their days in bed where they become weak from lack of activity and disinterested in unappetizing food. Medication reactions and interactions combined with chronic conditions can also cause seniors to fail to recovery properly.
Hospital delirium can also be a serious risk for elderly patients as a result of the use of sedatives, sleeping pills, narcotic painkillers and some allergy, blood pressure and incontinence drugs. Immobilizing patients can increase this risk. To learn more about hospital delirium in older adults visit the Harvard Medical School at http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-dangers-of-hospital-delirium-in-older-people-201111163810 .
It goes without saying that because hospitals are full of sick people, seniors with weaker immune systems may be be more likely to contract an infection which can lead to a sharp decline in health, a longer hospital stay and in some cases death.
By creating hospital units that specialize in geriatric care, older adults can recover faster and better when their needs are met. They are discharged more quickly saving quality of life as well as money by avoiding long stays, adverse events and transfers to rehabilitation facilities due to loss of function.
It is important to appoint an advocate for a elderly loved-one if they are admitted to hospital. Busy doctors and nurses may not always notice health changes or find time to keep patients from developing bed sores or other complications. If there is a choice of hospitals available, look for one with a unit dedicated to providing hospital care for elderly patients.