Many seniors have chronic health conditions that left untreated, can result in hospitalization. Seniors living alone are most at risk if there is no caregiver or home aid that can monitor signs of a worsening health condition and seek professional help. AARP recently listed the most common health conditions that result in hospitalizations.
Cardiac arrhythmias. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 4 million Americans have arrhythmias and an estimated 638,000 hospital admissions are due to the condition. A sudden drop in blood pressure is a sign of heartbeat irregularities, which can cause palpitations, and can lead to unconsciousness, stroke or even sudden cardiac arrest.
Congestive heart failure. This condition accounts for 875,000 hospitalizations annually, with one of every four admitted patients readmitted within 30 days. People can live for years with heart disease, which can weaken the heart muscles and inhibits the heart’s ability to pump blood, which can lead to heart failure.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In 2008, 822,500 people with COPD, age 40 and over, entered a hospital. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that are characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing. Both of these conditions frequently co-exist, which is why physicians use the term COPD
Coronary atherosclerosis. In 2009, 753,000 adults over 45 were hospitalized for coronary atherosclerosis, or a blockage of blood flow to the heart from the build-up of fatty plaque. Chest pain is a sign of this, which many times is a precursor of a heart attack.
Diabetes. In 2009, 655,000 adults were admitted to the hospital due to diabetes. Most hospitalizations were due to side effects of the disease, including dehydration from elevated blood sugar levels, which need daily monitoring.
Infection. Pneumonia is the most common infection (see below) but urinary tract infections are common as well. For Americans over age 85, there were 137,000 hospitalizations for urinary tract infections in 2009 and 148,000 for septicemia — blood poisoning from bacteria.
Medication problems. Hospital admissions for adverse reactions from medications and illegal drugs doubled between 1997 and 2008, according to an HHS report. Hospital admissions for drug-related conditions grew from about 30,000 per year to more than 65,000 per year — a 117% increase — between 1997 and 2008 for people ages 45 to 64. Medications most commonly involved: corticosteroids, blood thinners, sedatives and sleep aids.
Pneumonia. In 2009, 1.1 million people in the U.S. were hospitalized with pneumonia.Seniors with suppressed immune systems, are most susceptible to the bacteria ,viruses, fungi, and other agents that can cause the disease.
Stroke. Each year about 795,000 Americans will have a new or recurrent stroke, there are more
than 700,000 hospital admissions attributed to stroke-related illnesses. When blood flow is cut off to part of the brain — because of a clot in an artery or a blood vessel that burst — the result is a stroke, which kills brain cells and can lead to death.