Q. My 80-year-old mom was recently hospitalized and has been very confused since she was released. Is this normal?
Yes, this is a common occurrence, especially since people are discharged from the hospital sooner than in the past. Hospitalization of seniors may cause temporary memory loss, along with difficulty understanding discharge instructions. She will probably return to normal within a month. You should contact her doctor if you don’t see an improvement.
As you have witnessed, seniors may need extra support from health workers and family immediately after they're released from the hospital.
A helper on the day of discharge could make sure mom understands discharge instructions and help her get home and follow instructions safely. If a patient is by herself the day of a hospital discharge, it's possible that she won't comprehend complicated medical instructions, increasing the chance of medication errors as well as chances of re-hospitalization.
When she is no longer sick enough to be in the hospital, it doesn't mean she is 100% ready to be on her own.
Screening all older patients for reduced cognition before they're discharged from the hospital could help identify those who require specialized hospital-to-home transitional care with more frequent follow-ups. However, this is not normally done.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.