When you or your loved one go to hospital, you expect to go in with a problem, ailment or condition and leave in a much better state.
This is the hope of every patient, regardless of their age. So why are older people being sent home early?
Many families who readmit elderly loved ones claim that the hospital sent them home too early just a few days earlier.
It’s been suggested that hospital staff are put under pressure to free up beds for other patients.
One qualitative study looked to analyse the interactions concerning hospital discharge of frail and elderly patients – particularly from the perspective of patients and the medical staff.
A nurse in one ward said, “There is a very high inflow of patients all the time – so you have to discharge patients to make beds available. As soon as you feel care can be given out of hospital, you must facilitate it.”
It’s often elderly patients who suffer the most as many of them need more time to recover than younger people, and are being discharged earlier than necessary.
Many older people get admitted to hospital with complicated health issues, often with a combination of a number of conditions as well as dementia.
But determining the best time for discharge is a difficult task – both for the patient and the health care team
There are many people that take part in the decision to send someone home – usually led by a doctor, and supported by social workers, nurses, nurses’ aides and other health professionals.
It’s also important to note that while most discharged patients are on the road to recovery, they aren’t always fully healed when a decision is made to release them.
One of the challenges is that many elderly patients did not participate in the medical decision-making regarding their discharge from hospital.
Many of them said that they needed to – and wanted to – stay longer in hospital than they were allowed to.
One patient explained, “I think it’s totally wrong to send me home. I’ve been here for two days and now I’m going home again. But I’m not better than I was when I came here.”
Generally, most communications regarding discharge are between the doctor and the nurse, after which the patient was simply informed about the decision.
The staff was highly focused on patients getting rapidly discharged, which made it difficult to fulfil the complex needs of these patients.
However, sometimes a patient needs to be readmitted to the hospital, and it’s simply no one’s fault.
The study concluded that elderly patients require hospital care from time-to-time, and that these patients have been increasing in number.
So for that, it is important that hospital care is adapted so that elderly patients are provided with good and dignified care.