February 4, 2015
Fall prevention is one well-known and much-discussed way to help seniors avoid injury, which in turn keeps them out of the hospital. But what other issues may send a senior to the emergency room? Let’s look at a few lesser-known risk factors for senior hospitalization and how to mitigate them.
By the way, you can get more details on all the points listed below by downloading the free guide 5 Ways to Prevent Senior Hospitalizations.
1. Risk Factor: Failing to Follow Doctors’ Orders
Seniors who don’t follow their doctors’ orders may be at higher risk for emergency hospitalization, according to North American nurses surveyed by Home Instead, Inc. as part of the Prevent Senior Hospitalizations program. As people age, they may have trouble understanding and following a healthcare provider’s instructions, such as when to take a particular medication.
One remedy: Download a free medication tracker at SeniorEmergencyKit.com to help your family member adhere to a medication schedule.
2. Risk Factor: Ignoring Common Symptoms
As we age, our aches and pains may seem to multiply—perhaps due to chronic health conditions. Most of the time, these little symptoms don’t indicate anything serious. But when a senior makes a comment about “feeling ill,” don’t dismiss it as unimportant. Too often, seniors who feel ill one day can wind up hospitalized the next.
One remedy: Help your loved one discover which health issues could be putting him or her at risk of hospitalization. The Hospitalization Risk Meter offers a great place to start.
3. Risk Factor: Lack of Physical and Mental Activity
From physical ailments like arthritis to emotional episodes like the loss of a spouse, many factors can turn a senior into a couch potato. Unfortunately, this may trigger a cascade of effects. Muscle weakness due to disuse can cause poor balance and result in a fall. Depression can lead to cognitive decline and overall poor quality of life.
One remedy: Do activities with your loved one. Whether it’s putting together a jigsaw puzzle, going for a walk or watching a movie, your senior family member will enjoy both your companionship and the stimulation these activities provide. Stumped for ideas about what to do together? Check out GetMomMoving.com. Be sure to check with a medical professional before trying any new physical activity.
4. Risk Factor: Poor Diet
Appetite may decline in older age for a variety of reasons. Medications can cause foods to taste funny. Dentures may make chewing painful. The cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia may cause confusion about how to cook—or even how to eat. Whatever the cause, malnutrition can land a senior in the hospital.
One remedy: Develop a few new, tasty recipes that stimulate your loved one’s interest in food. Check out FoodsforSeniors.com for ideas.
Bonus Risk Factor #5: Unsafe Home Environment
You probably already know that falling is a top reason seniors wind up in the emergency room. As we age, our bones tend to become porous and prone to fracture. One “little” trip over a throw rug or extension cord can cause a fall that leads to a broken shoulder, hip or pelvis. Fall prevention tactics are a crucial weapon in the fight against senior hospitalizations.
One remedy: Perform a home safety inspection with your senior loved one. Use the checklist at MakingHomeSaferforSeniors.com as a starting point.
Hospitalization isn’t fun under any circumstances, but you can help keep your loved one safe at home by using the tips outlined above. For even more information and additional resources on how to avoid senior hospitalizations, be sure to download the free guide 5 Ways to Prevent Senior Hospitalizations.
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