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Problems Due to Hospitalization

By Oren Traub, MD, PhD, Departments of Internal Medicine and Adult Hospital Medicine, Pacific Medical Centers

Just being in the hospital can cause certain problems, particularly infections (called hospital-acquired infections). Other problems include undernutrition, incontinence, inability to urinate, depression, and lack of sleep.

Many hospital-related problems, such as pressure sores, are caused by having to stay in bed (bed rest) for long periods. Others, such as confusion, decline in mental function, and falls, may result from being in unfamiliar surroundings or being given drugs to relieve pain or to treat a disorder.

Sometimes one problem leads to another. When hospitalized, certain people—those who are confused, depressed, or undernourished or who are older—often become less able to take care of themselves. People who cannot adequately care for themselves are more likely to have longer stays in hospital and end up being sent to a nursing home after discharge.

If the person or family members anticipate problems, they should discuss preventive measures with staff members. For example, if communicating is a problem because English is not the person’s first language or if hearing is impaired, family members should tell hospital staff members. Staff members can take measures to help, such as arranging for someone to translate.

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