Physical and mental decline are common side effects of hospital stays, particularly among older patients. That can be the case even if the person has to be hospitalised for just a day or two, and for a common procedure such as knee replacement surgery, say US specialists.
There are some steps patients can take to regain strength, stamina and mental sharpness after time in the hospital, say Mayo Clinic ageing and fitness experts Dr Nathan LeBrasseur and Dr Michael Joyner.
They highlighted the importance of helping patients to keep up mental and physical fitness as part of National Physical Therapy Month in the US recently.
"One of the most important moves a hospitalised patient can make is to simply get moving again as quickly as possible, to whatever extent is possible," LeBrasseur says.
"That's because as people age, it takes less and less to push them off track," he says.
The significant levels of inactivity that typically characterise hospital stays place further stresses on the body and can induce further degree of disability and functional decline.
"The long-held belief is that 'rest is best' is clearly not the right answer. We know from a number of different studies in many different settings that exercise plays an active role in the recovery process," says LeBrasseur, of the Mayo Clinic's Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation unit, and the clinic's Centre on Ageing.
"Simple forms of activity are very important," he says.
Physical deconditioning during or after a hospital stay doesn't happen only to frail patients, says Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anaesthetist and physiologist.
Cognitive issues can emerge, say the specialists.
Anaesthesia and pain-relieving drugs can cause confusion or delirium, or make existing cognitive problems worse.
"It can happen to anyone, and it can happen quickly. Older people are at higher risk because they typically start at a lower baseline, so there is less reserve," he says.
"Each person and each case is different.
"However, the evidence for all sorts of conditions is that more aggressive rehabilitation strategies typically work far better than people realise."
LeBrasseur and Joyner have these tips for patients:
Work to maintain strong physical and mental health, so that if you do fall ill, you start at a high baseline. That gives you the reserve and motivation to bounce back sooner rather than later.
If you are hospitalised, get moving, however you can, as soon as possible.
Find ways to stay mentally active, even in the hospital bed. Reading helps, so does computer use, such as surfing the internet, and gaming.
Ask your doctor to make careful use of sedation.
Request signs and clocks in the hospital room, if there aren't any, to help you stay oriented.
Work with your medical team to devise ways to minimise the physical deconditioning, and to develop a rehabilitation plan.
The ultimate goal is helping people to stay physically and mentally fit to fight medical bed rest, LeBrasseur says.
Source: Newswise and Business Day via I-Net Bridge
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