Post 57…3 Ways older people can stay away from hospital this winter

Post 57…3 Ways older people can stay away from hospital this winter
Photo by Brigitta Schneiter / Unsplash

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; well, certainly in the shops it is as the mince pies have been on the shelves since September! It is, however, not looking quite so festive in the hospital wards...

Amidst the newly sprung decorations and Xmas songs on the radio, the age-old problem of bed blocking is starting to rear its ugly head again, and its just as bad as ever.

So, lets consider a few ways older people can keep away from the hospital wards this winter.

Staying mobile

Remaining mobile is an important aspect of keeping yourself fit and well. It is easier to see friends, partake in hobbies, and remain independent. But there are further, possibly more important reasons, for an older person to remain mobile.

If you are mobile the is less chance of developing pressure areas on your body. These can not only be very uncomfortable, but they can sometimes lead to a hospital admission if the area becomes infected. Pressure areas are often formed due to a lack of movement or mobility, so remaining active will certainly reduce the risk of developing one.

By remaining mobile you will also retain more of the strength in your legs, which is vital for older people as muscle mass can rapidly decline if an older person is not mobilising. Decreasing mobility can sometimes lead to a person going to hospital, especially after a fall, and can even be a tipping point to a person being assessed as needing nursing rather than residential care.

Reducing the risk of falls

Falls are a risk that can never be fully eliminated, not even in a care home. But there are ways that people can reduce the risk of falling and therefore the risk of being admitted to hospital. A few of those are listed here:

·        Have regular podiatry – having your feet or nails causing discomfort can sometimes lead to a fall, because you may walk differently from normal to ease of the pain.

·        Wear adequate footwear – make sure your shoes have good grip and you are wearing the right footwear for the occasion.

·        Remove trip hazards – that old bit of rug you keep nearly tripping over…move it out the way!

·        Make sure walking frames, or other walking aids, are the right size and have adequate grip on the bungs to support you.

Autumn and winter bring darker days, along with wetter, windier, and more slippery conditions due to fallen leaves or perhaps snow / ice, and as a result the risk of falls increases. There are often more falls in the winter and these quite often lead to a hospital admission, so anything to reduce the risk of a fall should be seen as a positive thing.

Stay well fed and watered

You would like to think this won’t be such an issue given the upcoming festive season, but as we age we naturally become less aware of our thirst, meaning older people can become dehydrated easily, sometimes without realising.

Being dehydrated can reduce energy levels, concentration, and may also lead to a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). All these things can also lead to an increase risk of falls. Dehydration can also lead to low sodium levels, which can cause delirium in older people and guess what, can also lead to falls.

Any issues linked to dehydration therefore come with a higher probability of a subsequent hospital stay, so it is important that older people consumer between 1.5-2 litres of water a day to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Why is this important?

Staying away from hospitals in the winter is vital for older people. Last year, a top A&E doctor even said in the press that he was ‘desperate to keep his parents out of hospital(taken from Daily Mail artical published on 13/11/22, written by Kate Pickles) as they were running at unsafe occupancy levels for prolonged periods of time.

When the hospitals are encumbered, getting in and out of them can be very difficult. Many people will be familiar with the long waits in the ambulances, sometimes then a trolley in A&E, then into a corridor, before making it onto a ward. This chaotic admission process is not only challenging for staff, but for elderly patients too.

Remaining in hospital for a prolonged amount of time can lead to reduced chance of mobilising, quickly leading to muscle wastage and mobility issues. Hospital Acquired Infections, low mood and boredom can also set in, so there is a chance of physical and cognitive changes.

On top of that, getting out of hospital can sometimes also be a challenge! If an older person needs to convalesce, or perhaps requires long term care, a care home placement can be re-searched but they are very often full up during the winter. This sometimes means people must wait for an extended period for a care home placement, even though they are medically fit to leave the hospital.

This bed blocking not only costs the NHS millions per year, but it further increases the risk of the person not being able to regain their full strength due to the prolonged stay.


The hospitals, and the NHS, are full of wonderful, hard-working, and very caring people. But the system is failed at a higher level, and as a result older people must try and stay away from them (if they can) during the winter months.

By remaining active, hydrated and by checking out for any hazards that might cause a trip or fall, older people can potentially stay away from the busy world of hospitals and enjoy the comfort of their own home, which is good for them, and for the NHS.

For anyone who is in the position of needing additional support, you can send me an email to book a consultation, or look through some of the other useful content on both The Care Whisperer, and The Dementia Whisperer websites.