According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 20% of all medicare patients who experience a hospital stay will find themselves right back in the hospital within 30 days. And it won’t be from your original health problem. That’s 2.6 million of us a year(!)
About 64-71% of readmitted seniors are back in for something new — commonly including a wide range of problems such as “heart failure, pneumonia, COPD, infection, gastrointestinal conditions, mental illness, metabolic derangements, and trauma.” Doctors are recognizing that the hospital experience itself is making you sick, and are calling it Post-Hospital Syndrome.
The health problems from this syndrome are ADDITIONAL to infections you pick up in a hospital — over 100,000 people a year die from an infection they picked up in a health facility. The number made sick but who don’t die must be much higher.
What causes Post-Hospital Syndrome?
It’s no secret that stress causes us to succumb to illnesses we could have fought off without the stress. And checking into a hospital is one of the most stressful things we do. Yet, despite some caring healthcare staff, hospitals seem to go out of their way to INCREASE our stress, through:
- Disrupting our sleep
- Is it really necessary to wake us up in the middle of the night to do ANYTHING?
- Hospital hesitancy to fully treat pain can also disrupt sleep
- Patients are leaving hospitals with the symptoms of “jet lag” due to sleep deprivation!
- Dosing us with drugs that can affect our balance and our brains
- Among others, sedatives are commonly prescribed during hospital stays — and often continued once someone goes home.
- Keeping us in bed — which “deconditions” our muscles even after just a few days
- The result can be post-hospital accidents and falls
- For liability purposes, strolling down the hallway during your stay would probably require an aide walking with you to protect you against falls. Hospital costs would rise (more aides required), but more patients could successfully go home without quickly returning with a broken bone from a fall.
- Not feeding us or feeding us unappetizing food we won’t eat — 20% of seniors 65+ receive less than half of their “maintenance energy requirements” during their hospital stay.
- The list of problems that arise from malnutrition is rather stunning, and includes heart, lung, wound healing and digestive issues among many others.
What can we do?
Here are two ideas that could help. Please post a comment if you have others!
- Contact your local hospital’s CEO and/or Advisory Board. Send them a copy of the New England Journal of Medicine article linked to from this article. Ask them what steps they are taking to protect their patients from these problems. This can help your local hospital improve BEFORE you might need to use their services.
- Stay out of a hospital if at all possible. If you have to be in one — get out as soon as you (safely!) can.
Marlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.