Hospital Trips Can Have Dire Consequences For Seniors

Julia Little  |  July 28, 2014

Avoiding hospitalization is a priority for many seniors. Even if it's for something minor, a trip to the emergency room can be a traumatic experience that may have a long-lasting impact on their health.

Avoiding hospitalization is a priority for many seniors. Even if it's for something minor, a trip to the emergency room can be a traumatic experience that may have a long-lasting impact on health. A study from Australia's Center for Research in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Queensland found older patients tended to be more frail, confused and dependent on senior care after being treated at a hospital than they were before admission.

Published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study was based on an analysis of the medical records of more than 2,000 patients who were 74 and older. Researchers found that prior to hospitalization, about 54 percent of study subjects could perform all activities of daily living. That figure dropped to 33 percent after treatment at the hospital's emergency department. Study authors also found an increase in cognitive issues and mobility problems.

"With population aging, and relative reductions in severe health problems among younger age groups, the proportion of patients in the [emergency department] who are older is likely to increase," Dr. Leonard C. Gray, the study's lead author, told The Washington Post. "Therefore, the case for designing the [emergency department] to cater for the needs of older people will escalate continuously."

It's also important for older adults to take steps to cut down on trips to the hospital, especially when it comes to fall prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults 65 and older. There are a number of ways for retirees to implement fall prevention into senior living. According to the CDC, exercise that focuses on balance and flexibility, such as tai chi, is among the best options.

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