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Seniors in the hospital often return for unrelated reasons

January 17, 2013

Whether due to an acute illness or injury, seniors have to spend time in the hospital for a variety of reasons. As a result, hospital readmissions are one of the biggest concerns of the senior health community, and a new study out of Yale suggests that older adults who return to the hospital within a short period of time typically have a different ailment the second time around.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the hospital environment often puts seniors at a greater risk for developing conditions - such as heart failure, COPD or infection - that could send them back to the hospital soon after leaving. Sleep disturbances, poor nutrition and even certain medications can play a role as well.

"Comprehensive strategies for mitigating post­hospital syndrome and its accompanying risks might begin with efforts to target the stressors that probably contribute to vulnerability in patients soon after discharge," the study authors wrote.

The study's findings can also be taken to heart by healthcare professionals if a senior transfers to assisted living after leaving the hospital for short term rehabilitation. For instance, focusing on physical and mental activity can help seniors return to the independent lifestyle they were used to before their injury or illness.