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Are you more at risk for illness after you are discharged from the hospital? What is post-hospitalization syndrome and how can you avoid it?

As anyone who has been hospitalized can tell you, a hospital is not a restful place. People wake you up to take your vitals and draw your blood. They bring you food when you are not hungry and take it away before you are. The food may comply with doctor’s orders but is not home cooking. Lying abed all day, you find your muscles deteriorating.

No wonder the stress and disruptions of hospitalization accompany you home.

It may not be inadequate treatment which sent 18% of Medicare beneficiaries back to the hospital within 30 days following discharge in 2016. In many cases, it may be the stress of hospitalization itself.

Post-Hospitalization Syndrome

The notion of “post-hospitalization syndrome” was discussed by Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a Yale University cardiologist, in a 2013 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He found that 60-90 days after discharge people are more vulnerable to a range of health problems, including falls and blood clots occasioned by inactivity. Gastrointestinal bleeding and anemia readmissions peak at four to 10 days following discharge. The higher risk of falls and other accidents persists for three to five weeks. According to Dr. Donald Edmunson at Columbia University Medical Center, 12-16% of heart attack patients develop PTSD.

Tips to make life easier in the Hospital

So what can you do to reduce stress when a family member is hospitalized?

    • You can bring their own clothes.
    • You can bring them their favorite foods.
    • You can make sure that they have their hearing aids, dentures, eyeglass and walkers or canes.
    • You can ask their physician if it is possible to schedule vitals, blood draws and other tests for a time when they would normally be awake.
    • If it is you who might go to the hospital, have a bag packed with comfortable clothes and warm socks, some favorite snacks and books or hobby materials – and don’t forget your glasses, cane, dentures or hearing aids.

Making life easier in the hospital may mean that you will not return there.

For an extensive list of resources for the elderly, visit Resources for Older Americans and People with Disabilities.

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people settling estates.

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