Study Finds Seniors at Increased Risk for Complications During Hospitalization

Published by Stephen on December 19, 2009 Under fall prevention

According to a recent study, those who are older are not only at risk for developing certain diseases and conditions, but also during hospitalization, those who are over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for experiencing complications that arise as a result of extended hospitalization. In fact, those who are over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop a complication than young adults and 10 times more likely to experience a fall during their hospital stay.

While falls and complications that result from these falls, such as hip fractures, are often one of the most serious health concerns, there are many other factors that are more likely to occur during a seniors hospital stay. For example, reactions to anesthesia, infection, lacerations, hemotomas, hemorrhages, and the development of ulcers are just a few of the complications that are dramatically more likely to occur in a hospitalized senior.

Further, the chance of a death during hospitalization also increases with age, with on average during 2004, around 2% of hospital patients of all ages dying. However, when you only look at those over the age of 65, which made up approximately 35% of those who are hospitalized, the mortality rate jumps up to around 3.5%. The mortality rate for those over 85, is almost double that and close to 7%.

The complications do not only occur during hospitalization though, with around a third of elderly patients reporting a loss of mobility or some other major change to their daily lifestyle after release. The chance of a fall or even death is also much higher for seniors post-hospitalization.

Formulation of Results

Researchers used a publicly available system provided by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, which allows you to search and formulate reports on hospital stays for certain diseases, as well as breaking patients down by demographics, such as gender and age. This is a very neat service and is available for public use here.

What This Means for Caretakers

For Nurses and other caretakers, this means that it is essential that actions are taken to reduce the risk of a fall during a patients hospital stay, as well as after discharge. However, since many of the complications are things like ulcers and infection, it is also important to be very diligent when caring for these patients and to preform regular physical examinations, as well as blood work and other tests.

The study found that patients in an environment that is more geared towards senior health care faired significantly better than other seniors, so a nursing care facility is often the best choice. Also, hospitals and clinics with a higher nurse to patient ratio resulted in fewer complications among elderly groups.

This study, like others before it, found that many of the complications that affect the elderly and those over 65 could be prevented, by attentive care. Further, the rate at which a condition is found and treated, is extremely important and can dramatically reduce the impact of the disease on the patient.


This study was published in Vol 18, #5(2009 September/October) of MedsBurg Nursing Journal.

The Author, Dr. Deirdre K. Thornlow, is an Assistant Professor at the Duke University School of Nursing and has an important role at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, in addition to having more than 20 years experience in the nursing field.

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