Patients are supposed to emerge from hospitals healthier than when they arrived. But a significant number of older Americans are likely to emerge more disabled after a hospital stay.
“In older patients, acute medical illness that requires hospitalization is a sentinel event that often precipitates disability,” according to The Journal of the American Medical Association.
About a third of patients older than 70 and more than half of patients older than 85 left the hospital more disabled than when they arrived even if their original illness was successfully treated.
Janet Prochazka was an active independant 75-year-old special education tutor when a bad fall landed her in a San Francisco hospital. While there, she didn't eat well and was unable to get a good night's sleep. After more than three weeks in the hospital and three more in a rehabilitation facility, she emerged far weaker than before, shaky and unable to think clearly.
Patients of all ages are exposed to noisy rooms, interrupted sleep and unappetizing food. Some are tethered to oxygen tanks, IV lines or other equipment. Medical procedures and medication adjustments can be exhausting. But what are mere annoyances for younger patients can result in long-lasting debilitation in older patients.
In 2014, there were 46.2 million people age 65 and older living in this country, representing 14.5-percent of the U.S. population. By 2060, it is estimated that the number will more than double to 98 million, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That same year, 6.8 million people age 65 and older spent at least one night in the hospital during the year. Among this group of older adults, 11 percent stayed overnight once, 3 percent stayed overnight twice, and 2 percent stayed overnight three or more times. This is approximately double the number of overnight hospital stays for people age 45 to 64.
For patients of any age, but particularly older ones, there are important questions to be considered when someone leaves medical care worse than when they started. Was their worsened condition after a hospital stay a symptom of a flawed system that does not take into consideration the patient's age when tailoring a plan for care? Or was their decline the result of negligence or a wrongful act?
“Predicting health conditions is difficult because it requires consideration of prospective developments in medical diagnosis and treatment, in lifestyle and behavior patterns, in community actions related to health, in the health delivery system, in the possibility of the reduction and control of various existing diseases and of the emergence of new diseases, in the state of the economy, and in other related factors.”
So many factors come into play that it often requires the expertise of an attorney who specializes in personal injury litigation to sort out.
Every person injured by a wrongful act, defective device or negligence deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of such an act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.