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Elderly hospital patients spend too much time in bed, experts say

Helping older adults stay active is often a cornerstone of senior care. Whether they're managing a chronic conditions such as arthritis or recovering from joint replacement surgery, the simple act of moving around can offer considerable benefits. While this can be easier to implement at home, for seniors in the hospital, getting up can be difficult. In fact, experts say that average hospital patients in their 70s spend just 43 minutes of out bed, according to a 2009 study.

Spending too much time in hospital beds is troubling for a number of reasons. For starters, researchers say that these seniors are often capable of getting up more often - meaning they don't have dementia and aren't delirious. Furthermore, seniors are not as able to recover from several days spent completely inactive than their younger counterparts, meaning that once they return home from the hospital they may find it difficult to get back to their previous levels on independence.

"If we put you in bed for the typical three- to five-day stay, we might tip you over the edge," Dr. Cynthia Brown told the audience at the recent American Geriatrics Society scientific meeting, according to The New York Times. "So you're not able to recover your previous level of functioning."

This issue highlighted by Brown also sheds light on the important role that post-hospital care plays in rehabilitation. No matter what brought a senior to the hospital in the first place, if his or her care isn't a priority after discharge, it's likely he or she could return to the hospital shortly after being sent home. There are a number of things to focus on, notes AgingCare. For instance, caregiver need to help re-introduce routine into seniors' life, whether this means waking up at a normal time or going for a walk, it can have a significant impact.