Seniors who leave rehab with new disabilities likely to die sooner

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Seniors discharged from hospital rehabilitation facilities with new activity of daily living (ADL) disabilities have a greater chance of dying within a year as those discharged without additional disabilities, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University.

In an observational study of seniors aged 70 and older who were admitted to a hospital for an acute medical illness, researchers found that the functional condition in which patients are discharged is important to survival. Of those discharged with new or additional ADL disabilities, 41.3% died within 12 months. Of those released in the same condition as before hospitalization, 67% maintained functionality over the course of a year and 17.8% died.

Researchers say functional recovery for those who leave the hospital with new or additional ADL disabilities is poor. To improve these outcomes, they suggest hospitals and rehab facilities increase focus on palliative care and caregiver support, and evaluate the possibility of providing rehabilitation interventions for longer than current reimbursement allows. The study is available in the November online edition of the Journal of the America Geriatrics Society.