To all this may be added poor nutrition. One study showed that a fifth of elderly patients in hospital received less than a half of their daily food requirements. In other words, such patients are in effect starving under the eyes of doctors and nurses. Weight loss and lower protein levels in the blood predict patient readmission to hospital.
Elderly patients have reduced cognitive reserve: that is to say, they have less flexibility in appreciating new situations, and unfortunately hospitals have grown ever more bewilderingly kaleidoscopic, partly for reasons of technology and partly because of organizational changes. It is not uncommon, for example, for patients not to meet the same staff twice; bewilderment is a precursor of paranoia.
Is there a solution to all this? As our hospitals have grown ever more sophisticated technologically and more capable of seemingly miraculous technical procedures, so the human being who should be the focus of all this activity, and even common sense, seems often to be lost sight of. Theoretically, it should be possible and even easy to ameliorate many of the factors that lead to post-hospital syndrome; but I suspect that the same or very similar article will be apposite in twenty years’ time.
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