Hospitalization is sometimes an unavoidable circumstance for seniors, but there are important post-hospital care routines to follow. According to federal data on Medicare beneficiaries, more than 20% of seniors are re-hospitalized within one month of being discharged. These individuals typically come back to the hospital with health issues that are different from, but ultimately related to the ones that landed them in the hospital in the first place. For example, someone suffering from heart failure might be readmitted an injury caused by a fall after feeling light headed.
While medical treatment while inside the hospital is important, it is equally important to know what is going on immediately after treatment. Seniors may still feel lightheaded or weak from their hospital admission. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “post-hospital” syndrome is used to describe the period of frailty and possibility of contracting illness experienced by those who are recently discharged from hospitals.
Post Hospital Syndrome
Seniors are already typically more frail than most of the population. As such, they are more likely to be susceptible to contracting a disease, having some type of traumatic injury, or losing their whereabouts after returning home from the hospital. More research needs to be done into why this is the case, as well as ways we can lower risks for this population.
It’s also important to understand that hospitals contain a variety of airborne illnesses and diseases that can have a negative impact on senior’s health. They may also have disruptions to their normal sleeping and eating schedule that could mess with their physical and mental well being.
To provide proper care for post-hospitalization syndrome, clinicians and healthcare providers have created a list of tips for caregivers. Preventing post hospital syndrome from resulting in another hospitalization, caregivers need to involve hospital staff and doctors through the process.
Let Them Rebuild Strength
This is the first step to helping your loved one make a full recovery. Make sure that when your senior returns home from the hospital they are not ignored or neglected. The period immediately following hospitalization requires food, rest, and relaxation, plus careful monitoring. The role of physical activity is also important, as conditioning after a long period of non-movement helps keep the body alert and responsive.
Be Aware of the Risks
If you are aware that your loved one is prone to contracting health complications after hospitalizations, you need to take the necessary precautions. It is vital for caregivers to recognize the period of convalescence to be a precautionary period. Keep your eyes peeled for potential health problems, even if they seem unrelated to your loved one’s hospitalization.
Ease Back Into Physical Activity
Depending on their level of cognitive functioning, your loved one may or may not be aware of their physical abilities following hospitalizations. While they could obviously appear weaker or disoriented, they may not realize that they cannot do the things they used to do before being hospitalized. Let your senior return to get their bearings and explain the importance of rest and recovery to them.
Hospitalization will always lead to disruptions in someone’s daily routines. From watching a favorite TV show every night to preparing a beloved meal, routines form an important part of our lives. When making the switch from the hospital setting back to the home environment, you have to be sure to take things at a slow pace. For example, if your senior grew used to having dinner at 6pm in the hospital, it might be better to stick with the same eating schedule instead of changing it directly after they get home.
Avoid Illnesses and Inclement Weather
When your senior returns home, they may have a compromised immune system. They may not even be strong enough to fight against the common cold. It’s best to keep your senior at a reasonable temperature and away from small children or places where they could be exposed to large numbers of people and germs.
You can also hire in-home care to help watch your senior following their hospitalization. In-Home care is most certainly the preferred care option for the elderly and their loved ones. Many seniors needing daily care want to achieve that in their own home, not in a facility or senior living community. The familiarity of one's longtime home can bring a sense of peace, and in turn, that can help tremendously with the complications that follow In-Home care.
Correspondingly, you'll need to make sure that you visit your loved one regularly, as the last thing you want is your loved one to form a co-dependent relationship with aides. Far too often family members hire home care for their elderly loved one and stop visiting them entirely.
Whether you and your family hire an aide or attempt to take care of your loved ones' needs as a collective unit, there are lots of things to balance during the process of healing an individual post-hospital care.
This is an instance where proper communication between your loved one and your family must take place. No one knows how your loved one feels other than them. Make sure to ask a lot of questions regarding preferences of comfort if you have decided that an assisted living facility/community is the path to go on.
Having an aging parent or relative living alone can be a dangerous, especially if there aren’t health professionals on call. With an assisted living facility, seniors can receive the care they need while socializing with other senior citizens and engaging in fun, new activities. There’s nothing more important than keeping your loved one safe and happy, you can do this by guiding them along as they choose how they want to live in the next chapter of their life. If you’re ready, have the conversation with your loved one about how senior living can impact their life and discuss the options that they can choose from.