Nobody would want to stay in a 19th-century hospital, where flies and rats proliferated, surgery was done without anesthesia (not yet invented), and the spread of disease wasn’t understood.
Yet a hospital stay today can result in a condition called delirium, characterized by hallucination, confusion, physical debilitation, and life-threatening psychosis.
“…research has linked delirium to a greater risk of falls, an increased probability of developing dementia and an accelerated death rate.”
Now, we’re learning that delirium can be brought on by hospital stays – even short and relatively simple stays, and affecting relatively young and healthy people. It can arise from something as simple as treatment for a urinary tract infection. According to this article, originally published in Kaiser Health News and reprinted in Next Avenue,
“Many cases are triggered by the care patients receive — especially large doses of anti-anxiety drugs and narcotics to which the elderly are sensitive — or the environments of hospitals themselves: busy, noisy, brightly lit places where sleep is constantly disrupted and staff changes frequently.”
My Mother’s Experience
When Mom had to overnight in hospital recently, the cleaning crew came in at 2:30 a.m. to strip the second bed, clean the bathroom, and mop the floor. Mom, 90, is a light sleeper anyway, and couldn’t go back to sleep that night. Couldn’t they have waited until morning? Another time, nurses stood outside her room, jabbering loudly about their personal lives. I realize this is their job, and they are people, too, but if you can’t be more compassionate or professional, go to work at a lumber yard or something.
Mom has had to stay in hospitals three times in the past year (she’s fine, thanks). Each time, she came home exhausted, needing several days to feel normal again.
Historic Breach of Trust
I’m not singling out Kaiser. My own experience with Loma Linda University Medical Center was similar. Unless you’re a one-percenter, this is the environment you get. We already knew hospitals are torture chambers where a healthy limb can be severed, an incurable disease contracted, or one’s financial health ruined. Now there’s a risk you’ll go crazy.
Hospitals are trying, though. Now that they understand how stupid they are, they’re teaching staff thusly:
“…(hospitals) are trying to soften the environment by shutting off lights in patients’ rooms at night, installing large clocks and minimizing noisy alarms…making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.”
For the love of God, how hard was that to figure out? It isn’t brain surgery, folks.