Re-hospitalization is a big problem, especially among the elderly population.
As many as one-fifth of adults over age 65 who are released from the hospital are re-admitted within a month — typically for a different health condition than the one they were initially admitted for.
Preventing this so-called “post-hospital syndrome” in aging adults requires a two-pronged approach, according to Harlan Krumholz, M.D., professor of medicine and public health at Yale School of Medicine. This approach involves both hospital staff members and family caregivers.
Krumholz offers the following tips for keeping an elder safe and healthy after a hospitalization:
Re-build reserves: The main thing you can do to help your recovering loved ones is to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of food, rest and relaxation. This is the best way to revitalize and strengthen their immune system. It’s also important not to forget about the role of physical activity in the recovery process. Deconditioning from forced bed rest is common in recently hospitalized people, and it can contribute to a host of health problems. Try to get your loved one moving, even if it’s just walking down the hallway or up and down the stairs a couple of times.
Be aware of the risk: Being aware that your loved one may be more prone to developing health complications following a hospitalization will ensure that you remain vigilant. “Once an elder comes home, it’s vital for caregivers to recognize that the period of convalescence can be dangerous,” says Krumholz. Keep your eyes peeled for potential health problems, even if they seem unrelated to your loved one’s recent hospitalization.
Ease back into activities: Depending on their cognitive abilities, your loved ones may or may not be aware of the effect that hospitalization has had on them. They probably feel weaker or more disoriented. However, they may not know how their ability to do the things they used to do before being hospitalized has been compromised. “Let them get their bearings back before engaging in activities such as driving,” Krumholz advises. If your loved ones are capable of understanding, try explaining the importance of getting back into the groove gradually.
Re-infuse routine into their life: Hospitalization leads to inevitable disruptions to a person’s daily routine. Depending on how long his or her stay was, an elder may have become somewhat acclimated to the rhythm of life as a hospital patient. When making the switch back to life at home, be sure to take things slow. For example, if your loved ones are used to having dinner at 5:30 pm in the hospital, don’t immediately start preparing them nightly meal at 7:00 pm. Instead, start gradually serving them dinner ten or 15 minutes later every day until you reach that 7:00 goal.
Stay away from sick people: The compromised immune system of a senior just returning home from the hospital may not be strong enough even to combat the common cold. Krumholz suggests keeping recently-discharged elders away from small children and outings where they would be exposed to large numbers of people (and their attendant germs).
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Providing Healthful Post-Hospital Care for Seniors originally appeared on AgingCare.com.