Older adults hospitalized for a medical illness and discharged with less ability to take care of themselves are at high risk for death and continued disability in the following year. Additionally, how these patients do in the first month after discharge predicts their overall recovery. These observations raise significant health policy questions about the support these patients should receive.
This study tracked outcomes of patients older than age 70 who were admitted to two Ohio hospitals for medical illness (as compared to stroke or surgery), stayed longer than two days but were not admitted into intensive care. Of the 2,279 patients studied, 1,480 had similar or better abilities to take care of themselves at discharge than they had two weeks before their hospital admission, but 799 patients had diminished abilities. Periodic interviews in the year after discharge tracked patient outcomes.
The findings of this study, along with the accessibility and usage patterns of rehabilitation services, suggest older adults are not receiving sufficient care and support immediately post-discharge and in the longer term. The authors call for additional research to help practitioners and policy-makers determine how to better target and deliver acute and long-term rehabilitation services, in-home health care and palliative care to older adults living in a variety of situations.