Should Seniors Avoid Hospitalization in July?

By Nancy LaFever / Posted on 09 July 2013

Should seniors avoid hospital in JulyYou often hear the worst place for sick people is in the hospital. That refers to the dangers of contracting infections or other medical complications while hospitalized. Hospitals and medical facilities have addressed these problems with aggressive ways to prevent infection, but there are still dangers to be avoided, particularly for seniors. Because many older adults have chronic health conditions and heal more slowly than younger, healthier patients, they are at higher risk.

However, as an article on AARP.org points out, there’s another hospitalization hazard to be avoided. What is this lurking danger? July is when many eager new medical interns, resident physicians, nurses and other medical providers are starting their jobs after graduating. Studies have shown that the quality of care drops during this month, dubbed the “July Effect.” The highest occurrences of medical errors and other risks have been found in teaching hospitals. It makes sense as these healthcare workers are essentially getting on-the-job-training. While there are strict rules regarding supervision for these medical personnel, often the supervising staff is stretched too thin.

Avoiding a Crisis

The article has suggestions to avoid problems while hospitalized:

  • Bring your health records with you - Be sure to include copies of a list of all your current medications with specific dosages. Don’t forget to add any over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or herbal supplements you take.
  • Have a health advocate – Ask a family member or friend to be with you. You and your advocate should ask why a particular procedure or medication is being given. It’s always good to have another person keep track of what’s going on, especially as you may be sedated, etc.
  • Tell your name – Medical staff routinely check wrist IDs when they work with patients, making sure it matches the name on the medical chart. But as an added precaution, say your name to anyone that treats you.
  • Know your doctor – There is one doctor, almost always an attending physician, in charge of your care. Know that doctor’s name and even though your primary doctor may change during your hospitalization, always get their name.



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