The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

December 4, 2013

Elderly can face prolonged delirium post-surgery

DEAR DR. ROACH: One week ago, my 99-year-old dad tripped over a metal strip that connects carpet to tile in a brightly lit concession area at a local movie theater and broke his left hip. Surgery was performed the next day, and he has been suffering the side effects ever since. Hospital personnel told me he would need rehab after the fact, but no one mentioned the effects of anesthesia on the very elderly. He had had throat stretching done twice in the past five years and came out of that anesthesia the very same person who went under, so I was quite unprepared for his current state.

He is suffering from delirium, and has not eaten since before he fell, as he refuses to swallow anything. He is on an IV started a few days ago.

As an only child, I am tasked with finding the appropriate rehab/nursing facility for when he is released. I have tried word-of-mouth and the Medicare site and have visited several locations. How do I choose the one that is right for him? He was very independent previously, even drove his car to errands and lived at an independent-living retirement home. I am heartsick over this entire situation and additionally stressed to make the right decision. —L.D.H.

ANSWER: This is indeed a difficult situation, and your father is lucky to have a concerned child to help him.

First of all, despite the broken hip and the complication of delirium, your father has a good chance of getting back to his function, before breaking his hip. But both delirium and a fractured hip are serious. Delirium is common in the elderly during hospitalizations, and it can be devastating. People with post-surgery delirium can return to normal functioning, but it can take months. Recovery from physical injury, such as the hip fracture, is much slower during delirium.

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