Preventive steps can avert nearly half of all senior hospitalizations

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A recent study* published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday shows that “medical errors” in hospitals and other health care facilities may now be the third leading cause of death in the United States. From a slip and fall to the flu, seniors are at a heightened risk to be hospitalized throughout the year. However, Home Instead Senior Care®, the nation’s leading provider of in-home senior care, found in a study that nearly half of those hospitalizations (49 percent) can be avoided with proper preventive care.**

Hospital stays often lead to more serious health declines for many older patients, which can start the cycle of frequent hospital readmissions if the patient does not have a plan and support system in place. Additionally, medical errors claim 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Thus, it is imperative that seniors and their families work together to decrease hospitalization risks.

“Taking a few simple steps, such as tuning into a senior’s symptoms or installing assistive equipment, can go a long way in preventing hospitalizations and the future complications that often follow the stay,” says Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, Inc., the franchisor for Home Instead Senior Care. “We know from decades of experience how important it is for families to be involved in helping seniors maintain their independence, and that is especially true given the news regarding medical errors.”

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To help your senior loved ones avoid the hospital, the Home Instead Senior Care network recommends that families do the following:

  • Make sure your aging loved one takes preventive health measures – like getting a flu shot or shingles vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 80 to 90 percent of flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 and older. What’s more, people 85 years of age and older have the highest rates of seasonal influenza-associated hospitalization. Weaker immune systems leave older adults more susceptible to respiratory diseases like the flu and the related complications, so prevention is critical.
  • Encourage the use of assistive equipment. According to the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, slips and falls are the number one cause of hospital visits due to trauma among people age 65 and older, and an estimated one in three older adults falls each year. Using assistive equipment, such as a grab bar or support stool in the shower, can prevent many of the falls that hospitalize hundreds of thousands of older adults each year.
  • Monitor and/or assist with medications. According to a recent survey of seniors conducted by Home Instead Senior Care***, nearly one-fifth of seniors taking five or more prescription medications have experienced challenges in managing their medications, including keeping track of which medications they have taken and when. The good news is that seniors feel more confident managing a complex medication regimen after discussing their list of current prescriptions and supplements with a loved one. Education programs such as Let’s Talk about Rx can help families have these critical conversations and avoid medication mishaps.
  • Keep your aging loved one active. According to the National Institute on Aging, regular physical activity has a range of benefits for seniors, including improved balance, increased energy and reduced risk of depression – all factors that contribute to hospitalization risk. Resources like offer plenty of suggestions for activities families and seniors can do together to keep the body and mind moving.
  • Pay attention to the signs and symptoms. According to the aforementioned Home Instead Senior Care study**, more than a quarter of nurses surveyed (27.5 percent) reported that waiting too long to see a doctor is the most common factor that puts seniors at risk of hospitalization. Frequently check-in on senior loved ones, pay close attention to their symptoms and any changes to appearance or demeanor, and encourage regular doctor visits to help keep those “little” aches and pains from a more serious trip to the emergency room. – PRNewswire
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