Three years ago I had a car accident and needed to stay in the hospital for half a month. In addition to the pain and discomfort from the injury, the thing I disliked the most was simply being in the hospital. Besides the restricted visitor time every day, I stayed in bed and was bored and lonely all the time. I shared my room with an approximately 60-year-old woman for 5 days before I was discharged from the hospital. During the 5 days, her only visitor was her daughter who came and visited twice. I rarely knew my “roommate”; however, when I tried to imagine myself at the age of 60, staying in a hospital would not be my options because I personally perceive it as unfamiliar environment that would further trigger more negative emotions such as anxiety, confusion, loneliness and confusion. Despite the professional equipment, which is exclusively available in the hospital, I believe hospitalization has negative influences on seniors’ aging process because many hospitals lack adequate and specified treatments for seniors and hospital stays increase the potentiality for patients to develop other problems. Many older people choose to stay in the hospitals due to serious and debilitating physical and mental disorders, however many hospitals don't have enough and specified medical equipment to satisfy the demands of older people (Palmer, 2009). Moreover, mistreatment and medical errors might significantly speed up the already declining abilities of seniors. Studies indicated that an individual’s overall cognition declined two times faster than his/her pre-cognitive ability prior hospital stays (Cohan, 2012), the effect was reflected more obviously on older patients who have longer hospitalization time (Cohan, 2012). Usually hospitalization provides patients with long stay-in-bed time, the lack of regular physical activity, problems such as bold clots, constipation and depression could start to appear (Palmer, 2009). Seniors are more aware of medicine uses when they are taking them at home. However when they stay in the hospital, they trust the professionals and lose their own control of taking medicines, which leaves room for the misused drugs and more prescribed (overtaken) drugs (Cohan, 2012). With the intention of recovering from the existing illness that initially leads seniors to the hospital, many people find they are in a “worse shape” while leaving hospital (Palmer, 2009). Considering the possibility of seniors’ nature declining of health conditions, hospitalization also possibly worsens older people’s health and patients are more likely to develop other problems due to the hospital stay itself. For example, “Hospital Psychosis”- a state “in which patients experience hallucinations and sufferings” – is a condition that is triggered by hospitalization (Cohan, 2012). Nosocomial infection is another infection that potentially put patients- specially infants, elderly people and others with a weakened immune system- at risk (Palmer, 2009). Hospitalization accelerates the decline in physical shape and mental function for most elderly individuals. Limit visitors per day during hospitalization also could trigger mental discomfort such as feelings of being abandoned, loneliness and confusion. With the authority reputation of hospitals, many order patients and their family are not aware of the negative outcomes staying in hospital might bring. Other factors such as the expectations of doctors, the lack of care facilities, and the unavailable family and social support might all lead to the hospitalization of elderly individuals. Following a study of 1870 senior participants over age 65 in the United States, Researchers showed that 71 percent of them had at least one hospitalization in the passed 12 years (Cohan, 2012). Another statistics estimated that average length of hospital stays at Beijing Hospital for patients over 60 years old from November 2003 to October 2005 to be approximately 37 days (Flaherty et al., 2007). Hospitalization might provide seniors with more professional resources, however, it is still vitally important to consider the negative consequences hospital stays may bring before determining the best way to provide care to elderly people.
Cohen, H. (2012, March 31). Hospital stays trigger cognitive decline. [Anti-Aging Health Blog post]. Baseline of Health Foundation. Message posted to http://www.jonbarron.org/article/hospital-stays-trigger-cognitive-decline Palmer, R.M. (2009). Problems due to hospitalization. The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from
com/home/special_subjects/hospital_care/problems_due_to_hospitalization.html Flaherty, J.H., Liu, M.L., Ding, L., Dong, B., Ding, Q., Li, X., & Xiao, S. (2007). China: The aging giant. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 55(8), 1295-1300. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/561748_3