Typically, hospitals hope to keep seniors from falling by encouraging those deemed a fall risk to stay in bed. This has been encouraged by the Affordable Care Act and the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services which no longer reimburses hospitals for fall related injuries (the agency decided that falls should “never” happen in a hospital. However, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, this policy may be detrimental to overall health.
“The policies had an unintended consequence: They created tension between promoting mobility and preventing falls within the hospital,” Sharon K. Inouye, a professor at Harvard Medical School told the Wall Street Journal.
Multiple studies have found that staying immobile could result in muscle atrophy, blood clots, bed sores, delirium and permanent functional decline in the elderly. This is troubling news since 95% of elderly patients surveyed in a 2009 study said they stayed sitting or lying during their hospital stay – even if they could have walked.
In response to this trend, 40 hospitals have launched a pilot program with support from the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services. This program is designed to help improve mobility, increase access to walking equipment, and train nurses to assess if a patient is ready for physical activity instead of waiting for a physical therapist. Hopefully these changes will improve patient care and allow seniors to return home sooner after a hospital admission.