What to Expect as Your Loved One Ages: Recovery After Hospitalization

Image of Dr. Macie Smith, as she discusses tips for supporting someone living with dementia

By Dr. Macie Smith

So you’ve gotten home from the hospital and are still feeling a little off. If your stay was three or more days, you may have what is known as “hospital-associated deconditioning.” This refers to general weakness or loss of fitness because of not using your muscles, which can happen due to bed rest and inactivity during hospitalization

Symptoms of Deconditioning

  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Shortness of breath with minor physical effort 
  • A heartbeat that is faster than normal 
  • Pain or discomfort with activity
  • Decreased strength, endurance and balance
  • Difficulty doing your usual forms of exercise

It’s important to understand that while normal, this type of deconditioning needs to be addressed. If proper steps aren’t taken to improve strength, stamina, endurance and balance, the weakened state could be permanent, which would significantly affect quality of life.

How to Combat Deconditioning

Here are a few tips for combatting deconditioning—many of which can be complemented by the assistance of a family member or professional caregiver.

1. Maintain active involvement in your activities of daily living (ADLs). 

ADLs include things like bathing, dressing and oral hygiene. Every little bit of activity helps to regain what has been lost. You may need some help at first, and that’s OK. Prioritizing these important activities can go a long way in preserving independence and quality of life for the long term.

2. Do your prescribed exercises. 

Part of your discharge plan likely involves physical or occupational therapy at home. While the therapists may visit with you for only 30 minutes at a time, you will be encouraged to repeat home exercises and activities in between your appointments. A family member or professional caregiver can provide assistance, especially since it’s important to do your exercises correctly and completely and for as long as prescribed. Having a care partner can make a difference in being compliant with your health professionals’ recommendations.

3. Be patient. 

Yes, I know you were only recently an actual patient in the hospital, but managing your expectations on the pace of progress is important. As we get older, it gets harder to recover from health-related setbacks. Get feedback from your home health provider and therapists on how much time your recovery will likely take. Then you can pace yourself appropriately and not get discouraged.

4. Utilize medical equipment and home modifications. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of products that can make your recovery a little easier by providing assistance or support with walking and moving from one place to another. Your doctor may prescribe things like a walker or a gait belt to help you walk, while your therapists will likely make recommendations for things like grab bars, a ramp, widening of doors, raised toilet seats or specialized shoes, if appropriate.

The good news is that you are home from the hospital and can continue your recovery in the comfort of your own home. The time and energy you invest now will pay off for the long term.

To learn how SYNERGY HomeCare can support you following a stay in the hospital, visit SYNERGYHomeCare.com.

Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care. For more articles by Dr. Macie Smith, go to https://synergyhomecare.com/blog/.

SYNERGY HomeCare offers no obligation home assessments. Find a location near you or Contact us to learn how we can help you have a safe and comfortable recovery following a stay in the hospital.

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