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Hospital Care for Older People


Michael Joseph Pistoria

, MEng, DO, Lehigh Valley Hospital - Coordinated Health

Last full review/revision Aug 2021| Content last modified Aug 2021
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More than one third of people admitted to the hospital are older people. And at any time, almost half of people in the hospital are 65 or older. Almost half of older people seen in an emergency department are admitted to the hospital.

When many older people leave the hospital, they may be in worse shape than before they became ill. Part of the reason for the decline is that older people tend to have longstanding serious and debilitating disorders when they enter the hospital. (See also Problems Due to Hospitalization Problems Due to Hospitalization Just being in the hospital can cause certain problems, particularly infections (called hospital-acquired infections). Other problems include Problems associated with extended bed rest, including... read more .)

However, part of the reason is just being in a hospital, which can cause problems, regardless of age. Older people are more likely to already have or to develop these problems, and the consequences are more likely to be serious for the following reasons:

Many older people have difficulty bouncing back psychologically and physically from the experience of being in a hospital as well as from the disorder they have had.

Preventive Strategies

Some hospitals have developed strategies to prevent problems that can result when older people are hospitalized. These strategies are designed to help older people continue to function as well as they did before they became ill.


How aggressively a disorder is treated in a hospital should not depend on age. Family members and older people should talk with a doctor to make sure options for treatment are based on the severity of the disorder, not on age. However, less aggressive treatments are sometimes appropriate for older people, depending on their wishes and outlook—that is, how the disorder is expected to progress and how long they are expected to live. Having advance directives Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more , which state what sort of care people want, is particularly important for older people.

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