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Things to know when an older adult is hospitalized...

Arun S. Rao, MD

Dec 12, 2023

Just last week, you went for a lovely stroll around town with him and everything seemed great.  He was happy, laughing, walking with strength, and enjoying treating you and the grand kids to your favorite ice cream at the local creamery in town.  The only thing you noted was that he seemed a bit more tired than usual after the stroll and maybe a little short-winded or congested?  But no- he was just talking excitedly after a great day.   

And then came The Call...” Are you related to Mr. Smith?  We’re calling from the ER- he just came in. Looks like pneumonia, a little short of breath, cough, fever.  Oxygen is a bit low, but we’ve got him on antibiotics.  He’s finishing up in the ER and should be transferred to the floor shortly.  You can check in the morning if you come by to visit.”   

Flash forward to three days later...He is confused, hallucinating, & trying to get out of the bed to go home; not eating; has a urinary catheter and oxygen tubing; has not had a bowel movement; and is so weak and wobbly from being in bed that the therapists and hospital teams say he can’t possibly go back home- that he needs a short course of rehabilitation in a nursing facility.  How did we get here?!?!?   

One of the most dreaded events for an older adult is hospitalization.  While many say they don’t want to go to the hospital, there come times when an acute or sudden illness cannot be managed safely at home or out of the hospital.  And so, yes, there is definitely a need for hospital stays in these situations.  And yes, a hospital stay is a challenging event for an older adult and their caregivers.   

A starting point can be to clarify these 5 items, which can hopefully make the process a bit smoother.   

  1. What is the primary diagnosis/reason for the hospital stay and what level of care are they- inpatient or observation?  

  2. Who is the primary physician taking care of them in the hospital and when can you speak with them daily for updates?   

  3. How long of a hospital stay is anticipated? 

  4. Who is the case manager/social worker and what are the plans for discharge? 

  5. Has the team touched base with the patient’s primary care provider & specialists? 

And yet, this is just a start...😳 

Wouldn’t it be great to have a doctor on your side to navigate this bumpy path? 

Geriatrics Planning & Solutions, Inc. can help reduce the stress and anxiety during a loved one’s hospitalization.  Dr. Rao has over 20 years of clinical experience as a geriatrician and has worked extensively in hospitals caring for older adults.  He can be a liaison between the patient, patient’s caregivers, and the hospital (or nursing facility) teams to:  

  • Coordinate the communication of medical information  

  • Translate medical updates & plans to make them easy to understand and process 

  • Clarify the options for care after discharge 

  • Advocate for the patient 

Call for more information or visit the website for more details!   

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