A client recently forwarded a New York Times article to me that discusses the hidden dangers of older adults spending too much time in bed when hospitalized. I asked Jeanette Sandor, a well respected former Director of Nursing at a nursing home, to comment on this article as it relates to the elderly in hospitals and long term care facilities. Below is a link to the New York Times article along with Ms. Sandor’s comments.
Comments by Jeanette Sandor:
I really appreciate Dr. Brown’s research. It is so consistent with what I saw as a nurse who worked in nursing homes for 20 years. There are so many elderly who end up in nursing homes due to a diagnosis that rendered them dependent such as Alzheimer’s Disease or a stroke. However, there is also a large group of elderly that end up in nursing homes with the primary diagnosis “Deconditioning”. These individuals have been hospitalized for various reasons and while receiving treatment they experienced an overall decline from immobility. Their functioning had declined. They had become incontinent. They got a bit confused. Now they need a nursing home, hopefully on a short-term basis. Although some regain previous functioning through the restorative therapies they receive in a nursing home, there is a significant group who never regain their mobility and many who suffer other consequences of the decreased functioning such as pressure ulcers, falls and depression. Once these events occurred, the likelihood of returning to previous functioning is reduced even further. Personally, I was recently hospitalized and saw firsthand that while hooked up to intravenous and donning a hospital gown, how minimally I moved each day. Where does one go in the hospital besides walking in the hallway? And as the article suggests, who is going to walk the elderly down that hallway? If the person is blessed to have a visitor who will take on this role they will have a better outcome. Educating loved ones is a critical piece to improving outcomes. And as a society and as healthcare providers, let us not forget those individuals who have no loved ones to look out for them, to take a walk down the hall. Growing up we heard “An Apple a day keeps the doctor away!”. Let’s coin the phrase for hospitalized elderly: “A walk down the hall keeps the nursing home away!”