GALVESTON, Texas, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Being hospitalized for an acute event, such as a stroke or hip fracture, can lead to long-term institutionalization in a nursing home, U.S. researchers found.
Lead author Dr. James S. Goodwin, director of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, found direct discharge to a skilled nursing facility — a common practice designed to reduce hospital stays — put patients at “extremely high risk” of needing long-term nursing home care.
Goodwin said the findings suggest programs aimed at helping older patients recuperate at home instead of in an institutional setting could greatly improve their health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
“Hospitalization is a tipping point for older patients, often reducing their ability to live as independently as before,” Goodwin said in a statement. “Add the enormous systemic pressure to reduce hospital stays and a dearth of viable programs to help patients fully recover their health and independence after hospitalization, and there simply isn’t a clear path to get the patient back home.”
Goodwin and colleagues measured a 5 percent sample of Medicare enrollees — approximately 762,000 — age 66 or older from 1996 to 2008 who were admitted to nursing homes. Of that population, 75 percent were admitted to a nursing home for long-term care within six months of a hospital stay.
The findings are published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.