For more serious injuries and illnesses, a stay at the hospital can ensure you get the care you need for a safe recovery. Though once you’re back home, the work isn’t necessarily over. Especially for older adults, hospitalization can have long-lasting consequences, potentially creating health problems over the days, weeks, or months after.
If you want to get back to feeling your best as soon as possible, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come after a stay in the hospital. With the right information, you can find a faster, safer recovery.
The decisions you make in the days immediately following your stay in the hospital are the most important. It can be a logistical challenge, but as long as you can keep this checklist in mind, you’ll start your recovery off on the right foot.
Post-Hospital Syndrome, or PHS, is the term used to describe the period after a hospital stay when patients are more susceptible to disease, injury, and other adverse effects. It has two main causes. The first is the fact they are still recovering from their original illness, even though the worst symptoms may have passed. The second cause is related to the outside risks they were exposed to while staying in the hospital.
The risks that come with PHS are wide-ranging, but you can find an overview of some of the most common ones below.
Each person will experience their own risks and challenges during recovery. However, here are some of the most common risks to watch out for.
Many patients experience a delirious state during their hospital stay, which may persist after they have returned home. This can make it more difficult to navigate the logistical challenges that come after a hospital stay.
People who are recovering from an injury or who have gone long periods with reduced activity in the hospital may be more likely to suffer falls in the weeks after. This can be especially dangerous for older patients, possibly sending them right back to the hospital.
Transitioning from the hospital can be a chaotic process, adding stress and other adverse mental conditions on top of your physical ones. It can be especially harmful if psychological symptoms are neglected or ignored.
Whether because of stress, a change of environment, medications, or other factors, many patients experience sleep problems after a stay in the hospital. This can weaken your body’s ability to recover physically while also exacerbating psychological difficulties.
Now that you’re aware of some of the major risks that come after a stay in the hospital, you can find some ways to be proactive. Try to keep these tips in mind for a safe and smooth recovery process.
It can be tempting to rest in bed during a prolonged recovery, but in most cases, the body needs to stay active to return to its peak. When resuming physical activity, it’s best to start small and work your way up. Depending on your condition you may want to consider consulting with a physical therapist on an appropriate exercise regime for recovery. In general, a walk around the block or 15 minutes on a pedal exerciser can be a good place to begin. Once you’re feeling up to it, you can start working in other forms of exercise.
Of course, pay attention to your doctor’s advice regarding physical activity during recovery. In some cases, bed rest may be exactly what you need.
Don’t forget that it’s just as important to keep your mind active. Even if you’re not feeling ready for much physical activity, try to keep your mind occupied. Even simple activities like browsing the internet or chatting with a friend can be a great way to stay engaged. Reading, journaling, making art, or doing puzzles are other fun ways to activate your brain.
It’s always a good idea to maintain a healthy diet, though seniors in recovery need to pay closer attention than most. Choose a low-fat, low-sodium diet that is high in probiotics, protein, vitamin C, and plenty of fluids. Here are a few examples to get you started:
Staying on top of your weight is never easy, but with the right digital bathroom scale, you can track your scale and heart rate at a glance.
While the recovery process definitely takes time, you don’t want it to go on forever. It’s important to set concrete goals and share them with your caregivers to help keep your recovery process on track.
If you’re not sure what kind of goals are best for you, try talking to your doctor. You can also start by asking questions like. What level of activity do you want to be at in a month or in a year? Are there certain activities that you want to get back to? Be specific and write your goals down.
It’s important to remember that even the most dedicated patients need to rely on outside help to recover fully. Rather than try to do everything yourself, take stock of the resources that are around you.
Most of all, remember that there is never any shame in asking for help. For older adults especially, asking for help with small, simple tasks can be the best way to keep yourself safe from the larger risks.
While it's important to take advantage of the resources you have around you, you also need to do your part to stay on top of your own illness. To stay informed, request a summary from the hospital outlining the treatment you received and the medications you were given. Try asking simple, common-sense questions like “what should my doctor and I keep an eye on in the next week?
Write down appointments, medications, dietary restrictions, and other important information, so you don’t forget it.
Once your goals are set, and you have all the resources and information you need at your fingertips, the next step is to plan ahead. Managing appointments, medications, and daily living tasks isn’t easy, especially when you’re not feeling your best. That’s why you need to look forward to making sure you’re prepared for it all.
If you’re not sure whether a friend or family member can be counted on to drive you to the grocery store, now’s the time to set a date. If you want to reschedule your next appointment, don’t hesitate to call now. Being proactive is the best way to ensure you get the care you need.
Depending on how much experience you have with the medical community, it can be hard to stay aware of all the resources that are available to you. Take a look below to find some that might be relevant to your health needs, and talk to your doctor about taking next steps.
Physical therapy is one of the most common health support services for people coming out of a hospital stay. A trained therapist can help you regain strength and mobility after a long period spent in a hospital bed. They can also help train muscle groups to function together after an injury.
Looking for a new way to work your muscles? Try a resistance band exercise.
Occupational therapy is similar to physical therapy but focuses on task-oriented activities. These often involve hand-eye coordination, grip strength, and fine motor skills, focusing on tasks like writing, using the bathroom, or cleaning yourself.
As noted above, following a nutritious diet is more important during recovery than it is normally. A registered dietitian can help you find the diet that best suits your needs, both during and after your recovery.
If you leave the hospital and are dependent on a ventilator, you’ll be working closely with a respiratory team. These professionals will help you regain your full lung and pulmonary strength, allowing you to gain independence from the ventilator and breathe freely.
If you had surgery while in the hospital, developed a pressure ulcer, or are suffering from another type of wound, nurses trained in wound care can help. Wound care professionals use a combination of antibiotics and specialized equipment to treat your wounds.
See what others are asking about post-hospital recovery.
There’s no way to say how long your recovery will take as it's based on a wide range of factors like age, type of disease, and preexisting medical conditions. However, one helpful rule of thumb estimates that each day you spent in the hospital equates to about one week of recovery.
A post-hospital follow-up is a check-up after your discharge to evaluate your overall health and ensure there aren’t any complications. This is a great opportunity to talk to your doctor about your health in general and ask any questions about your continuing care.
If you’re still in the hospital and are starting to feel healthy, you might want to ask your healthcare team whether it’s time to head home. As long as you have the mental capacity to make your own decision, you have the right to leave the hospital whenever you want.
However, this isn’t always a good idea, which is why it’s always best to talk to your doctor first. Leaving the hospital early can cause you to miss important tests that could impact your ongoing treatment.
While the long road to recovery might seem discouraging at first, the truth is that you can only walk it one day at a time. There are many factors to keep in mind, but by focusing on the task immediately ahead of you, you can manage your own recovery with confidence. Don’t forget to stay in close contact with your doctor and your support system to keep all your resources readily at hand.