The worst fear for family members is the call from the hospital notifying them that their loved one has been admitted. In many cases, seniors are re-admitted repeatedly for various conditions, creating family stress and interfering with quality of life issues.
In 2008 there were 14 million hospital stays for patients over 65, about a third of all hospitalizations. As cohorts age, the proportion of hospital stays increases. Those 75-84 are 4.3% of the population but account for 13.8% of stays, and those over 85 are 1.8% of the population but 8% of stays.
At any age over 65, men are about 10% more likely than women to be hospitalized. Hospital stays for the elderly are usually five days or more and average cost is about $10,000 to $12,000. Interestingly, people living in wealthy communities had higher rates of hospitalization but rates were lower in the suburbs. As people get older the place of discharge changes dramatically. Those 65-74 tend to be discharged to home, at 60% of the time, but the 75 t0 84 cohort does that only 46% of the time, and the over 85 group just 30%. Discharge to another institution, such as a nursing home, or to home health care, correspondingly increase greatly with age. The report paints a picture of an impending surge in hospital costs as the population continues to age.
Home care aides can be there to monitor seniors to control the most common reasons for hospitalization by the elderly, which includes congestive heart failure, pneumonia, blood infections, home falls, adverse medication reactions, and arrhythmias. A safe home environment is a key toward reducing ER visits.
Here are a few steps you can take to help the weeks and months after you or a loved one leaves the hospital go as smoothly as possible:
Ask your hospital if it has special planners who can help you prepare to leave the hospital.
Create a detailed, written plan, often called a discharge plan that includes important information, such as the following:
1. The date you are leaving the hospital
2. Where you are going after you leave the hospital
3. How you will get there from the hospital
4. A schedule of follow-up appointments with primary care providers or specialists
5. A list of your medical problems
6. A list of allergies
7. A list of medications, including when to take them and for how long, and any possible side effects
8. How you will fill your prescriptions
9. A list of any equipment you might need, such as a cane or wheelchair
10. What you will do if you have a medical problem in the middle of the night
Bring your plan, including a list of all your medications, to every appointment with a primary care provider or specialist. Go over your plan with a family member or friend.