By Dr. Macie Smith
For older adults, a trip to the hospital can have a long-term negative impact completely unrelated to the reason for hospitalization. According to the National Institutes of Health, functional decline—the lack of ability to do things—can be the result of restricted mobility, inadequate nutrition and hospital acquired infections.
That’s why it’s so important to avoid hospitalization.
According to a Medicare Payment Advisory Commission report, 40% of hospitalized persons in the United States are 65 years of age or older. The most common reasons for hospitalization in older adults are urinary tract infections (UTIs), dehydration and falls —all preventable! Here’s how to reduce the risk of hospitalization due to these issues.
Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
According to the Mayo Clinic, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system—the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract—the bladder and the urethra.
The best way to avoid a UTI is to drink lots of water. Drinking water helps dilute the urine. That leads to urinating more often— allowing bacteria to be flushed from the urinary tract before an infection can begin.
This can be challenging for older adults because the sensation of thirst diminishes with age. Also, reduced mobility can make going to the bathroom a challenge, which results in limiting fluids.
Good hygiene is also important. Wipe from front to back to avoid the spread of bacteria. Cleansing the area is also important.
In addition to not feeling thirsty, older adults have less water in their bodies than they used to, which makes them more at risk for dehydration. According to the Cleveland Clinic, dehydration can cause serious health effects such as dizziness, difficulty walking, confusion and rapid heart rate.
Water is the best way to stay hydrated, but it’s ok to mix it up with diluted juice, coffee or tea—in moderation. Flavored water is a great way to add a little interest to staying hydrated. Smoothies, popsicles, ice cream, Jello and fruits high in water content are also great ways to increase fluid intake.
According to the CDC, falls are a major threat to the health of older adults because they can reduce their ability to remain independent. Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture, says the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Falls can be caused by a variety of things. Some medications can cause dizziness or drowsiness, so it’s important to speak to your doctor about medication management. Loss of muscle mass can affect strength and balance so weight training can make a big difference. Hazards in the home can contribute to falls as well. Eliminate clutter, throw rugs and low lighting, and add grab bars, railings and non-slip mats in the bathroom to decrease risk of falls.
Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker, which increases their chances of falling.
To learn how SYNERGY HomeCare can help reduce the risk of hospitalization in older adults, 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/.
For more fall prevention tips, download SYNERGY HomeCare’s free Fall Prevention Guide.
SYNERGY HomeCare offers no obligation home assessments. Find a location near you or Contact us to learn how we can help identify fall risks and make recommendations to create a safer home environment.