Study: Expectations, motivation may affect post-hospitalization mobility for seniors

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Seniors hospitalized for illness experience greater functional decline than surgical patients. The difference could be a function of expectations and personal motivation, a recent study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham tested seniors for functional mobility before and after hospitalization. After following certain patients through hospitalization and recovery, they discovered that surgical patients tended to return to baseline mobility within a year, while non-surgical patients tended to experience significant functional decline even up to two years after hospitalization. Researchers suggest that there is a heightened level of expectation for recovery for surgical patients. There is an assumption that medical problems will be fixed with surgery and the patient will get better. With non-surgical patients, there are no such expectations, according to researchers.

Other contributing factors to the decrease in functional mobility among non-surgical patients include increased use of medications, which can promote confusion and depression, or a tendency to remain immobile in bed for long amounts of time, researchers say. Patient-centered care, discharge planning, medication reviews and efforts to get patients up and out of bed sooner have all shown promise in returning seniors to pre-hospitalization functionality levels, according to researchers. The report appears in the March issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.