When a loved one is discharged after a hospital stay, it’s always a cause for celebration. They are surrounded by familiar places, faces and feel relieved to have gotten back to their routine. Familiarity and love are the two reasons why most seniors prefer in-home care rather than hospitalization.
However, living with a chronic disease means that the latter is very much a part of their reality. We can try to minimize such instances of frequent hospitalizations. The transitional care services were designed for this very reason.
It’s essential to understand the potential adverse effects of hospitalizations on the elderly to comprehend transitional care services’ significance.
Let’s begin with it:
The psychological effects of being in a hospital are very real. According to a study by Neurology, frequent hospitalizations have been associated with cognitive decline affecting the patient’s memory and thinking skills.
In fact, the probability of cognitive decline doubles after a prolonged stay in the hospital. The greater the duration of stay, the more decline we can expect in the elderly patients. Delirium is the primary cause of it, and it happens in 20% of patients.
While being hospitalized, seniors may experience agitation, disorientation, and confusion. ‘Delirium’ is the collective term for it. Once believed to be temporary by doctors, delirium may persist and lead to a long-term cognitive decline.
Other possible reasons are:
- Lack of mental stimulation
- Small, undetectable strokes
- Uncontrolled blood sugar
You need to visit your loved one as much as you can for the much-needed mental stimulation. Moreover, you can bring them crossword puzzles, magazines, and favorite books to prevent boredom-induced cognitive decline.
Chronic diseases are the primary reasons for long hospital stays. In addition to that, prolonged hospital stays can cause a decline in seniors’ physical health. Most bedridden patients become weaker and experience a great deal of difficulty in resuming their usual routine post-discharge.
Research suggests that approximately 50% of patients over the age of 85 and 33% of patients over 70 experience greater physical disability after being discharged from the hospital. That means reduced ability to care for themselves.
Hence, they may need assistance in performing daily chores and taking care of their personal hygiene. Reduced independence and greater reliance on others further take a toll on their mental health.
Physical and mental health are intertwined. One cannot exist without the other.
A hospitalization is a life-changing event. Lingering stress is one of the consequences of increased length of hospital stay. It is isolating and causes massive disruption of routine.
Mainly, if family caregivers cannot stay with them all the time, a feeling of helplessness, despair, and loneliness may set in – contributing to the stress. Constant companionship cannot be expected from nurses as well since they are busier.
The longer the duration of stay, the more difficult it becomes for them to resume their life post-discharge. Besides, the stress associated with long-term hospitalization can cause further delay in patients’ recovery due to a weakened immune system.
Loss of Power
It’s not uncommon for seniors to feel out of control post-hospitalization. Due to their weakened physical and mental health, family members end up making every decision for them. While they are only trying to help, seniors may feel a loss of power because of it.
For this reason, they may even deny the treatment or recurrent hospitalization. That leaves them struggling longer than they are supposed to. Therefore, family members must include them in every conversation that will affect them in the future.
Try to understand their concern and what they might have to say in the matter. It can be difficult if they cannot properly articulate their feelings and opinions. However, ensuring your complete support can make them feel loved and heard.
The effects of prolonged hospital stay can manifest in the form of seniors’ poor mental and physical health. Frequent hospitalization degrades their quality of life, wellbeing and narrows down their chances of recovery.
For this reason, it’s never too late to hire transitional care services for your aging loved one!