A startling statistic has recently come to light: at least one-third and up to two-thirds of hospital patients over the age of 70 leave the hospital weaker than they were when they arrived. This information, previously disregarded as an inevitable effect of the natural aging process, is now leading experts to challenge the way most hospitals conventionally treat their elder patients. Because the hospitals focus mainly on treating whatever ailment or disease that afflicts the elder patient, caregivers at the hospital often overlook important practices that an elder patient needs to prevent frailty.
Examples of practices that inadvertently harm elder patients are bed confinement, un-nutritious food offerings, and uncomfortable surroundings. Instead, medical experts say that hospitals should encourage exercise and work to provide a more comfortable and pleasant experience for its elder patients. In two hospitals that have begun to implement changes, volunteers accompany patients on daily walking sessions of 15 minutes.
The benefits from improving daily life and activity also counteract the detriments of bed rest and immobility. Bed rest can raise chances for infection and contribute to rapid muscle loss. Plastic wrapping of food can be a significant problem for people with arthritis. While some hospitals around the country – notably the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and Highlands Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama – have instituted elder-care units specifically to target these sorts of problems, most hospitals have not. It is essential that medical facilities begin to tailor their patient care to the needs of the elderly.