For the elderly population, a hospital admission can be life-changing. It is more difficult for people to recover from traumatic events as they age, and a health crisis requiring hospital care often signals a change in the level of support a patient needs. Here is an overview of some of the most common reasons elderly people are admitted to hospital care, as well as some strategies to keep them well when they return home. We’ll focus on the 5 most common reasons for geriatric hospital admissions in Brooklyn.
Top Reasons for Hospitalization of the Elderly
1. Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is not a disease in itself, but a complication that can be caused by many different ailments. These include hypertension, coronary artery disease, and viral heart disease. When the heart doesn’t function efficiently, fluid seeps out of blood vessels and collects around the lungs and chest wall. The patient then experiences difficulty breathing. Congestive heart failure is a slow, progressive disease, and it’s easy to ignore early symptoms. In particular, seniors tend to dismiss breathlessness as a normal sign of aging. Initially, problems with breathing only occur when patients exert themselves. However, the ailment soon progresses to the point that the patient struggles even when resting. Heart failure may result at this stage: this is when hospitalization generally occurs.
The number one cause of injury among the elderly is from falls, accounting for 800,000 hospital admissions each year. Poor balance often causes falls, but the latter can also be a result of health problems. Dizziness caused by heart problems or cerebrovascular diseases can cause patients to be unsteady on their feet. In that case, an injury from a fall complicates their recovery after the initial diagnosis.
3. Acute Cerebrovascular Disease
This disease refers to a group of conditions that affect blood flow to the brain. These conditions include hemorrhagic strokes (when blood vessels rupture and cause bleeding in the brain) as well as strokes caused by blockages in the blood vessels. The onset of symptoms is usually sudden and includes confusion, severe headaches, slurred speech, dizziness, and numbness on one side of the body (hemiparesis).
A viral or bacterial infection can cause pneumonia or inflammation in the lungs, especially in populations that are immunocompromised. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, fever, confusion, and fatigue. Pneumonia can escalate to a health crisis requiring immediate medical care. However, symptoms are often initially dismissed as a common cold. Unfortunately, pneumonia can progress quickly in the elderly.
When a bacterial infection in the body spreads to the bloodstream, the result is septicemia. In such a scenario, the bloodstream carries bacterial toxins to every organ in the body, leading to the quick onset of serious symptoms. Initial symptoms include fever, chills, and a rapid heart rate. As septicemia progresses, however, patients experience confusion, nausea, skin rashes, and reduced blood flow. Without immediate medical treatment, septicemia can lead to sepsis, which can be fatal.
Preventing Another Hospital Stay
Once the original health problem causing the hospitalization has been addressed, seniors usually return home. The next challenge is to provide the right kind of support so they don’t get readmitted. Seniors experience slower recoveries, and complications can quickly become serious. So, paying close attention to certain risks can help prevent a quick return to the hospital.
Seniors who have new medications often find it a challenge to keep track of doses and schedules. To complicate matters, prescriptions can be difficult to fill. This is especially true when someone has restricted mobility due to illness. Assisting seniors with their medication schedules helps prevent complications from over- or under-dosing.
2. Following Prescribed Self-Care
It’s not uncommon for an elderly patient to agree to a self-care plan in the hospital without fully understanding what’s expected. To prevent avoidable complications, it helps to repeat those instructions upon their return home. Additionally, implementing a manageable self-care plan can reduce the chances of a hospital readmission.
3. Nutritional Support
Be sure patients get adequate nutrition as they recover. Fatigue and reduced appetites often make it difficult for seniors to navigate food preparation. However, nutritional support is critical to healing. Without it, the patient’s health can be irreparably compromised. So, it’s important to ensure seniors get nutritious, balanced meals every day.
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