Senior Health: Successful Aging

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What are some concerns regarding hospitalization of the elderly?

With increasing medical issues in seniors, their medical care becomes more complex and difficult to manage. Subsequently, seniors become ill more severely and frequently compared to younger people. As hospital visits and admissions become more frequent, the overall health status can decline as a result. Although hospitalization is often necessary for seniors, it is not always free of risk.

Episodes of waxing and waning confusion (delirium) is a common feature in hospitalized elderly. Even though delirium is typically reversible, it can sometimes linger for a long time and possibly reset one's mental function at a lower baseline. Delirium can be caused from several reasons:

  • Effects of the medical illness itself
  • Being in an unfamiliar environment
  • Interacting with unfamiliar people
  • Noisy and brightly lit hallways and hospital rooms during the night
  • Frequent awakening at night time for blood draws and vital signs
  • Medications for pain and sedation which can alter thoughts and mental judgment
  • Intravenous lines, urinary catheters, and other medical devices attached to the body

Other potential dangers of hospitalization of seniors are as follows:

  • Hospital related infections
  • Medication and procedure side effects and complications
  • Interaction between home medications and new hospital drugs
  • General decline in function and deconditioning
  • Falls and injuries

Although there are many problems that seniors may encounter, both in and out of the hospital, understanding the problems and then forming a plan to address them is a first large step in making the senior years still productive and enjoyable. Seniors should consider finding a geriatrician who is as special training in the care of seniors to help manage their special medical problems and concerns.

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