Acute Illnesses Increase Risk of Severe Disability in the Elderly
Older patients have a much higher risk of severe disability when they are treated for an acute illness or injury, a new study has shown.
Severe disability is defined as the inability to perform three or more activities essential for daily living without the assistance of others. Examples of these activities include walking, eating, bathing, and brushing one’s teeth.
While aging is a common risk factor for disability, the study revealed that acute illness and injuries were a much stronger risk factor of eventual severe disability than common age-related risk factors including physical impairment, visual impairment, frailty, and cognitive decline.
For context, the study showed that severe disability is 177 times greater in elderly people who were hospitalized for acute illness or injury than in elderly people who have any of the common age-related risk factors. Furthermore, they found the risk of progressive severe disability is increased by more than 20 times if there is a subsequent hospitalization.
The study authors hope these findings will help care givers pay more attention to health strategies that prevent falls and acute illnesses in the elderly.