5 Ways to Prevent Post-Hospital Syndrome

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 originallyappeared onAgingCare.com.

: By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor


Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson4 years ago

Common sense, but sometimes difficult to do.

Terry V.
Terry V4 years ago


GGma Sheila D.
Sheila D4 years ago

My mother had a second hip replacement surgery last year and we both got sticker shock when we saw the bills - and what they charged her for. If that didn't land her back in the hospital with another stroke, nothing will! She said if anything else goes wrong "do NOT send me to a hospital - my heart isn't strong enough to look at anymore of their bills!"

I agree with Marie W and others that said hospitals now days release people too soon - because insurance, Medicare, and Medical Assistance will only pay for a VERY short stay, even after having surgery. People are more or less kicked out, many times causing complications that are more costly and never would have happened if the patient had been allowed to stay a few more days.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey4 years ago

Thanks for the sage advice.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

First and foremost we should try to stay out of that damned place!

Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Good to know--thanks!

heather g.
heather g4 years ago

I've noticed this where I live - even young people are very fortunate if they come away from hospitalization healthy....

Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard4 years ago

Thank you

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing