Preventing Hospitalizations Among Seniors
Preventing hospitalizations among senior citizens can only prolong lives, but will give you peace of mind. As we age, our bodies and our mind begin to slow down. We begin to suffer from health issues that can lead to hospitalizations. However, there are many health issues that elderly people experience that can be preventable.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to emergency departments in the United States. One third of adults over the age of 65 fall each year. However, only half of these accidents are ever reported to loved ones or physicians.
When someone is unsteady, has poor balance or frequent episodes of weakness or dizziness, a physician must be notified. Adding a medical support devices, like a cane or walker is great ways to reduce the risk of falling.
However, the best way to prevent falls among the elderly, is to provide supervision. In many instances that can mean round the clock. This way, if there is a problem with balance and/or steadiness, the issue can be quickly identified. Everyday activities can result in an elderly person having a fall. For example, transferring them in and out of a chair or bed. Even using the toilet or shower can pose an issue. Getting in and out of cars is another. Having someone to help is extremely beneficial in reducing their risk for falls.
A caregiver can assist with such activities like bathing, dressing, use of the bathroom and transportation. This kind of supervision can prevent serious, even life threatening injuries. Even something as simple as doctor’s visits or shopping can be a hazard for those who experience dizziness or balance issues. Having supervision for everyday activities, is the best way to prevent a fall that can result in serious injury.
Believe it or not, preventing hospitalizations among seniors can be done by supervising their medications. Side effects and drug interactions of medications are common among the elderly. As your loved one ages, they will likely be prescribed multiple medications. Many of these, even when taken properly can cause a patient to become unsteady, lightheaded and even dizzy. Especially when taken on an empty stomach or without food. Medication errors can lead to potential falls.
Anti-anxiety, antidepressants, diuretics and hypertensive/cardiac medications can lower one’s blood pressure. This will increase their risk of injury. Sedatives and pain killers can impair coordination especially in the elderly and those with cognitive impairment and dementia.
Many medication errors among the elderly can be prevented. One of the most common mistakes is mixing over the counter medication with a prescription medication. This can result in adverse complications. Another of course, is when they take the wrong medication, or takes too much. Even forgetting to take their medication can pose a risk. It is imperative that patients not only take the right dosage, but that they take it at the prescribed times.
Simply said, elderly people should be supervised when taking medications. Having someone to organize and prepare their medications can reduce the risk of potential harm. It can also prevent over dosing. Many seniors need reminders to take their medication correctly and timely to stay safe and compliant. They may have up to 10-20 different medication a day that may need to be taken multiple times throughout the day. This is where an appropriate pill box and preparation can be life saving. When left on their own, many seniors can find it extremely confusing and overwhelming.
Dehydration is ranked among the top reasons for hospitalizations among seniors. In a study of Medicare hospitals, dehydration occurs in the elderly population due to several factors. It is an imbalance of electrolytes and fluids that can be caused by excessive sweating. It can also be caused by the use of diuretics and certain medications. Often, when they are left alone, they don’t recognize the need to increase their water intake. This is especially in hot temperature and warm climates.
Dehydration occurs easily when a person loses more body fluids than they are taking in. Dehydration can be very serious and can lead to a variety of health issues. Kidney stones, urinary tract infections, heart problems, renal failure can all be the result of dehydration. These serious issues can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
A simple remedy is to make sure that there is a caregiver to remind and assist the elderly to increases their fluids. They need to offer fluids at mealtime and in between meals. They can also look for signs and symptoms of dehydration, and can notify a physician immediately. This can be crucial. It may seem relatively simple, but unfortunately with failing health and memory, many will forget to drink enough water daily.
Malnutrition is also among the highest cause of senior hospital admissions. It can lead to a weakened immune system, muscle-weakness, and slower healing times with illnesses. Just like remembering to take in enough fluids, seniors usually don’t eat balanced meals. The elderly also need to be aware that many medications can affect their appetite. As well as their digestion, and their nutrient absorption.
When seniors live alone and are no longer able to prepare healthy meals, many rely on high sodium and prepackaged foods. Not eating a healthy diet can cause lethargy, which can exasperate the whole eating properly issue.
Preventing hospitalization among seniors is as easy as making sure your loved one is eating healthy. The best way to do that is to have someone prepare their meals. Arranging a home delivery of prepared, cooked and nutritious meals are another option. However you need to ensure they are eating what is being delivered. The very best option is having someone supervise their eating. They can also remind them that it is time to eat. Eating healthy and nutritious meals and taking in adequate fluids will give them energy. This will help ensure that their digestive system functions at it’s best.
Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (commonly called a UTI) is a bacterial or fungal infection that is present in the urinary system. This can include the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTIs are one of the most common infections in seniors. They are mostly caused by dehydration.
In older adults a UTI can cause agitation, changes in mental status, confusion and sleepiness. It can even cause delirium and hallucinations. If you notice any sudden behavior change, it could be a sign of a UTI.
Although they are common, they can potentially lead to severe complications. If left untreated, complications can lead to death. It is imperative that caregivers and or family members report a urinary infection. This can prevent complications such as kidney damage or sepsis. Both conditions can be life-threatening conditions in an elderly person. The infection can spread to the bloodstream and eventually can cause death.
Seniors can prevent a UTI by drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. It is also very important that they have good personal hygiene. This is extremely important if they experience incontinence. Promptly changing of their underwear or pads is essential in UTI prevention. These activities may require some assistance from a caregiver. It is not that elderly adults don’t want too, but their declining health and cognition prevent them from doing so.
Preventing hospitalizations among seniors is not as hard as it may seem. It is imperative that there is someone who will look after your loved one. Someone who understands the signs and symptoms of these potentially life threatening infections.
In many cases, preventing hospitalization among seniors can be avoided. Proper care and supervision can prevent illness. With early detection, it can be lifesaving.
In conclusion, it is extremely important for family members to ensure that their aging loved ones have sufficient supervision. When their elderly family member’s needs are meet, hospitalization, even emergency room visits can be avoided.
If you are thinking that it might be time to consider bringing in a caregiver to supervise and assist them in everyday activities, please click here and take our Quiz “Is it Time for Care”