If your parent has recently spent some time in the hospital, you may want to consider rehabilitation to help him or her get back into pre-hospital condition. Rehabilitation services can put elderly people back on the right track to regaining their strength, health and independence. As research shows, even a short stay in the hospital can lead to a decline in physical abilities.
Deconditioning in the hospital
While in the hospital, deconditioning, or detraining as it is sometimes referred to, is a common problem — especially among the elderly. According to researchers at St. Frances Xavier University, deconditioning is a process of changes that take place after bed rest or inactivity. It results in functional losses in the ability to accomplish activities of daily living, and is frequently a result of hospitalization of an elderly person.
The problems from deconditioning are most notable in the musculoskeletal system, which results in a loss of muscle mass. It is estimated that people in the hospital can lose from two percent to five percent of their muscle mass per day. This loss of muscle mass is of great concern because it can lead to a decline in daily functioning, falls, immobility, and an increase in frailty. This makes it important that, if warranted, people leaving the hospital get rehabilitation to rebuild their muscle mass.
Building muscle mass at any age
Many people may believe that their parents are too old to spend time building muscles. This is not true. According to research conducted by Dr. Miriam Nelson, author of the book “Strong Women Stay Young,” (Bantam, 2004), most women begin to lose muscle mass after the age of 40, partly because they begin to slow down. Yet in her study, conducted at Tufts University, women who engaged in strength training for one year resulted in bodies that were 15 to 20 years more youthful. They were stronger, had better balance, improved flexibility, and were more energized.
Strength training programs have many benefits for older people, especially after they have been in the hospital, where they were likely losing muscle mass. The National Institutes of Health also recommends that after serious injury, illness or surgery, recovery may be slow, and people often need rehabilitation. Physical therapy, they report, will help to strengthen muscles and increase mobility and fitness.
Deconditioning can be quite detrimental and prevents people from being as independent as they would like. Rehabilitation and strength training are steps in the right direction to help combat the problem. If your parent has had a recent hospital visit or is scheduled for an upcoming one, consider speaking about arranging some rehabilitation to hasten the recovery process.