Don’t let the hospital keep you in bed if you’re able to walk. Even if you’re only in the hospital a few days, it’s critical to move around. If you remain bed-bound, you could end up so weak that you’re worse off when you leave the hospital than you were when you were admitted.
According to the American Academy of Nursing, as many as two thirds of all older adults who are hospitalized leave the hospital unable to walk independently even though they walked independently when they were admitted to the hospital.
Kaiser Health News reports that hospitals sometimes keep older patients in bed and do not let them move around in order to ensure they do not fall. Hospitals put side rails on the beds and install motion sensor alarms to prevent their older patients from getting out of bed. Many hospitals do not have enough staff to support patients who want to walk. As a result, patients lose their strength.
Many older patients who are not allowed to walk while in hospital leave the hospital far less independent than they were when they were admitted. Their lack of independence can be long-term and serious. It easily can take three months of rehab therapy for older adults to regain the ability to walk and their independence. Hospitals do not usually track the frequency with which hospitalized patients get out of bed.
One study found that one in three hospitalized patients over 70 years old are more disabled when they leave the hospital than when they were admitted.
Here’s the problem: Hospitals have far greater incentives to prevent falls than to ensure their patients’ independence upon discharge. If a patient falls, a hospital may face financial penalties. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will not pay the hospital to treat injuries of a patient who has fallen under its watch. And, hospitals with the highest fall rates receive lower federal payments. The penalties were put in place because falls can be fatal for older adults; falls are the primary cause of fatalities as well as nonfatal injuries.
What to do? Walk as much as possible in hospital. Older adults who walk as little as 275 steps a day have lower readmission rates after 30 days.
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