Common-sense precautions that can keep your loved one home and healthy
No one enjoys a hospital stay, and we all want to do whatever possible to avoid one. But for seniors, the consequences of a stay in the hospital can last long after they’re discharged. As a result, there is a greater emphasis on incorporating the efforts of family members, loved ones, and caregivers in the prevention of senior hospitalizations.
Deterioration while hospitalized is a serious concern
According to a recent report from
, research indicates that elderly patients tend to deteriorate mentally or physically while hospitalized – even if they have recovered from the illness or injury that initially brought them there. One-third of patients over 70 and more than half of those over 85 leave the hospital more disabled than when they arrived. As a result, seniors who were relatively healthy prior to their hospital stay may lose their independence upon discharge, and this can put a greater emotional and financial burden on the patient and family members alike. The reasons for this deterioration are as varied as the reasons for being admitted to the hospital in the first place. Some factors include:
- Hospitals are often very short-staffed. As a result, it is often difficult to see to the unique needs of elderly patients. Food may remain uneaten and it may be difficult to get seniors out of bed on a regular basis.
- Cumbersome IV poles and oxygen tanks often restrict the movement of elderly patients.
An ounce of prevention
- Seniors can often wind up sleep deprived as a result of pain, discomfort, noise, or vitals having to be taken at all hours of the night.
If there is any good news in this scenario, it’s that family members, caregivers, and loved ones can play a vital role in preventing many hospital stays. About the only thing that’s required is for them to be proactive in how they address the various needs of their senior. There are five essential ways to help keep the senior in your life out of the hospital. Each of these suggestions is eminently doable and based on common sense:
- Follow doctor’s orders
Once your senior’s doctor creates a care plan, follow it. If it means scheduling medicines at certain times to coincide with meals or light exercise, then follow that advice. If you have concerns or something doesn’t make sense, it’s okay to ask questions. Similarly, as you’re following a physician’s orders, also be aware of how your loved one is managing the regimen, either positively or negatively. Your feedback will help the doctor proceed with further recommendations.
- Don’t ignore symptoms
As travelers, we are constantly reminded, “If you see something, say something.” The same can also be said while caring for your senior. Pay attention to symptoms – everything from aches and pains to disorientation – and, if possible, keep a record that includes time of day, after taking medication, etc. As a caregiver, you are also an advocate, and documentation can be essential in fulfilling this role.
- Maintain a healthy diet
This just makes good sense for everyone in the family, but especially for elderly loved ones who need to maintain their strength, activity, and immune system. And healthy food preparation is also a great way to keep your senior involved in family life.
- Keep your senior physically and mentally active
There are many ways to do this, and you can be as creative as you need to be. There’s music, singing, dancing, reading, puzzles, short walks, trips to the store, gardening, and arts and crafts. Encourage conversations by asking open-ended questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” response. And of course, share as many meals with your senior as possible.
- Reduce the risk of falls or accidents
Falls are one of the leading causes of senior hospitalizations, so this is one area where caregivers need to be especially vigilant. The
offers the following suggestions:
- Make an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to review medications, their side effects, and if they increase the risk of falling. While there, share detailed information (when, where, how) of previous falls, including falls that were prevented by either someone intervening or your senior being able to grab onto something.
- Keep moving. With a doctor’s approval, try light exercises (walking, water workouts, tai chi) that improve balance, strength, coordination, and flexibility.
- Have your senior wear sensible shoes. Avoid heels, slippery soles, and floppy slippers. Instead, select shoes that are fitted properly, sturdy, and that have non-skid soles.
- Remove objects that may interfere with walking, secure loose rugs, and store clothing, dishes, and other necessities within easy reach.
- Light up the night. Keep flashlights handy, use nightlights, and change to illuminated light switches.
- Use assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, handrails, and grab bars.
FirstLantic has developed a Fall Prevention Program to address the risk of falls in elderly individuals. Our clinicians create a unique plan that spots environmental hazards, reviews current medications that may exacerbate the risk of a fall, and assesses an individual’s current need for mobility equipment. We also provide recommendations on how to make your loved one safer that may include strength and balance exercises, occupational therapy, the installation of railings or grab bars, or services from a home health aide.
Prevention assistance in South Florida
If you have questions or need assistance in preventing hospital stays for your loved one, the
team of home health aides is ready and available to lend a hand, a shoulder, and an ear. Since 2000, we have provided the highest level of home healthcare services for families living in South Florida, including Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties. Please contact us 24/7 at 1-877-618-3624 or through our
online contact form
to find out more.