Aging adults are much more likely than younger people to be readmitted to the hospital. In fact, if your senior loved one has been recently discharged from the hospital, statistics show he or she has a 20 percent chance of being readmitted within 30 days.
While a wide variety of issues send seniors back to the hospital, several risk factors appear much more frequently than others. When family caregivers are aware of these factors, they’re better equipped to help their loved ones avoid having to return to the hospital. Here are some of the most common reasons for hospital readmissions and how family caregivers can help their loved ones avoid them.
Hospital-acquired infections (also known as nosocomial infections) are one of the top reasons seniors are rehospitalized. Weakened immune systems make seniors extremely susceptible to infections, especially in hospitals, where germs and viruses are present no matter how carefully staff members work to maintain sterile environments. Common types of hospital-acquired infections include pneumonia, surgical wound infections, gastrointestinal bacterial infections, and urinary tract infections resulting from catheter use.
If your loved one has an infection, symptoms may not appear until after he or she returns home, so it’s important to monitor his or her condition closely. Watch your loved one for the following signs: fever, chills, coughing, vomiting, low urinary output, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. If you see any of these symptoms, contact the doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment at home with antibiotics may prevent your loved one from having to be rehospitalized.
A professional caregiver can closely monitor your loved one for post-hospitalization complications, including infections. In-home care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.
2. Lung Conditions
Lung issues such as pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are among the most common reasons seniors return to the hospital. Reduced immunity and exposure to viruses, bacteria, and irritants can lead to pneumonia, which causes the lungs to fill with fluid, making it extremely difficult to breathe. An upper respiratory infection (which may or may not have been acquired in the hospital) is typically accompanied by fever, a productive cough, and shortness of breath. If your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, especially severe breathing difficulty, call the doctor immediately.
If your loved one has COPD, he or she is at even greater risk for readmission. COPD can cause the airways to become blocked with mucus. Symptoms of COPD include chest pain, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, and even fainting. Make sure your loved one takes any prescribed medication and drinks plenty of water, which thins the secretions in the lungs and makes the mucus easier to expel. Since COPD raises the risk of lung infections, be especially watchful for any of the signs of infection listed above.
3. High Blood Pressure
Seniors with high blood pressure have an increased risk of readmission because hypertension is a major contributor to strokes and heart attacks. If your loved one has high blood pressure, there are several ways you can reduce the risk of readmission. Most importantly, make sure your parent takes his or her medication as prescribed. However, be aware that some antihypertensive medications can have serious side effects, such as hypotension, confusion, severe muscle pain, and weakness, which can raise the risk of fall-related injuries. Help your parent maintain a healthy lifestyle by finding creative recipes for tasty low-sodium meals that adhere to the diet prescribed by the doctor. In addition, encourage your parent to exercise, and remind him or her to drink plenty of water.
A professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support for a senior who’s recovering after being hospitalized. When searching for reliable Fair Oaks homecare agencies, families want to know their senior loved ones will be well taken care of. At Home Care Assistance, our expertly trained caregivers are available around the clock to assist with tasks around the house, provide transportation to medical appointments and social events, and much more.
4. Early Discharge
Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found roughly 20 percent of seniors are discharged from the hospital too soon. Significantly, the researchers discovered if a senior has one abnormal vital sign, his or her risk of readmission increases by 36 percent, while more than one abnormal reading raises the risk by a whopping 400 percent. When your loved one is being discharged, his or her vital signs—including temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure—will be checked. If any of these readings don’t fall within the normal ranges, address them with the physician before your loved one leaves the facility.
5. Failure to Attend Follow-Up Appointments
Many elderly people don’t schedule or attend follow-up appointments with their doctors after they’re discharged from the hospital. Some seniors simply forget, while others may not have access to reliable transportation. These appointments are absolutely critical, since they allow the physician to monitor your loved one’s progress and identify and treat any potential issues before they become serious enough to require rehospitalization.
Help your loved one schedule all the necessary follow-up appointments as soon as he or she returns home. Write them on your loved one’s calendar or enter them in his or her phone. Make note of the dates and plan to either take your parent to the appointments yourself or arrange for someone to provide transportation. Making sure your loved one attends these follow-up appointments is crucial to preventing complications that could require readmission.
Seniors are often physically weak after spending time in hospital beds, especially for extended periods. When aging adults return home, they may be fatigued from being unable to get high-quality rest in the unfamiliar environment of a noisy, busy hospital, and they may have new medications that cause side effects such as dizziness or fatigue. All these factors increase the risk of falling and sustaining an injury. For an aging adult, a fractured leg or broken hip can mean weeks or months back in the hospital.
After your loved one gets home, spend some time together to make sure he or she is able to navigate the home without difficulty. Watch to see if your parent has difficulty standing, walking, or getting up from a chair or bed. Check the label on your parent’s medications for warnings about any side effects that could cause mobility issues. Walk through the home and create clear pathways by removing clutter, furniture, throw rugs, cords, and other obstacles that could create tripping or falling hazards.
Many aging adults need assistance when they return home after being hospitalized. For some families, caring for a senior loved one can be overwhelming at times. Luckily, they can rely on professional respite care. Fair Oaks, CA, Home Care Assistance is a trusted name in respite and hourly care. Our caregivers are available around the clock to assist seniors with bathing, transportation, medication reminders, exercise, and much more, allowing families the time they need to focus on other important responsibilities or just take a break. To hire a professionally trained caregiver for your loved one, call us at (916) 485-4663 today.