Older patients in a hospital – we’ve got them…

My clinical background is in physical medicine and rehabilitation and I got my start in health care as a Physical Therapist.  I still maintain my PT license but fortunately for our patients we have several competent PT’s on staff because I’m way out of practice. 

Years ago when I had the opportunity and fortune of seeing patients, I enjoyed the geriatric population the most.  The majority of the patients we serve on an inpatient basis at GVMH are older and they have special needs just like any other patient population. 

The below article recently ran in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and I thought it was worth sharing.  I received a link to the article from the Missouri Hospital Association.

Older patients in a hospital should follow these tips

For most older patients, hospitals can be frightening places where things happen at a confusing and rapid pace. Many fear that hospitalization can lead to a downhill slide, causing them to become less independent and able to care for themselves.

I tell all my patients, if you go to the hospital, take a friend who sleeps in your room. The friend should serve as your personal advocate and consistently question why medicines are being given and what each procedure is for.

Here are some other strategies I suggest to my patients who face hospitalization:

Get out of bed • Staying in bed can lead to rapid loss of muscles and weakness. You might need some help, but moving will help you recover and resume your ability to function independently. Use the toilet instead of having a urinary catheter put inside you.

Eat • It’s easy to become malnourished. Food is withheld to allow tests to be done and you might be served special therapeutic diets — such as heart-healthy diets — despite the lack of evidence that they work. Breakfast in bed may sound like a Sunday morning luxury, but it isn’t. Have your meal served to you as you sit in a chair.

Get thorough discharge instructions • Make sure you are very clear on which of the old and new medicines you should take, and when. Find out when you need to return to the doctor for follow-up care.

Look for a hospital that is “age friendly” • For instance, Des Peres Hospital and St. Louis University Hospital have special rooms where older patients who become delirious are observed continually and special Acute Care for the Elderly — or ACE — units. On ACE units, the older patient is cared for by a team of nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, case managers, dietitians and pastoral care staff. They work together to review the medical, behavioral, cognitive and emotional status of each patient for the best possible medical care.

SLUCare physician John Morley is director of geriatrics at St. Louis University and a geriatrician at St. Louis VA Medical Center. Email him at morley@slu.edu. The Aging Successfully column for seniors rotates each week with XX Files, a women’s health column.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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