Hospital Admissions: Can I help my elderly parents avoid hospital?

Yes, you can do many things to help your elderly loved one avoid hospital admissions. Here are our top care pro tips.

The Most Common Causes of Hospital Admissions for Elderly People

According to an extensive Age UK report, hospital admissions in older people occur for various reasons. Let’s go through that list together.

[Special Note: You will see delirium noted a few times in our article as it accounts for10-31% of hospital admissions and is a symptom of many diagnoses. Something to be aware of when talking to GPs or NHS staff.]

Dementia and Cognitive Impairment

1 in 4 hospital beds is occupied by dementia patients in the UK. The reasons for hospital admissions among people with dementia include

  • acute illness
  • poorer function
  • malnutrition and hydration
  • or delirium.

For some, this is caused by a lack of diagnosis or recognition of on-set dementia, inadequate support, social isolation, illness or infection, or plainly forgetting how or when to eat, drink or medicate.

care professional making a jigsaw with a client

Respiratory and Heart Conditions

Among the ages of 59 and 73, a high number of hospital admissions are caused by cardiovascular (men 71%, women 68%) and respiratory (men 40%, women 34%) issues (Rambukwella R et al., 2023).

The most significant factors for this are poor health, smoking, fractures and higher BMIs.

Falls and Fractures

30% of people aged 65+ will suffer at least one fall a year. As we age, our risk increases, as does the chance of secondary falls and hospital admissions.

Many falls will result in soft tissue damage, but for some, there is a risk of fractures. These risks increase with age.

The causes of falls range from decreased mobility to decreased cognitive and executive function. These factors control how we judge and adapt to fall-risk situations.

[We recently wrote a checklist called How to reduce fall risks at home We highly recommend signing up to receive a copy to help you reduce fall risk for your loved ones.]

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

1-3% of primary care consultations relate to UTIs, and they can be a significant cause of organ failure and mortality among older people. As the bacteria spread, they can cause confusion and agitation (delirium) in just a few days. That may be your first indication that something is wrong.

Poor hygiene, dehydration, and catheter bacterial infections are common causes of UTIs. Some medications can also contribute.


A person suffering from malnutrition is likely to visit their GP twice as much as those who are well-nourished. They are also expected to experience longer hospital stays.

Malnutrition can be caused by many things, from poor eating habits, lack of appetite caused by disease, physical disabilities, cognitive impairment, depression, isolation and even fear of falling.

Malnutrition can also contribute to other conditions.


Poor hydration is equally prevalent among older people and responsible for just as many hospital stays as malnutrition. It can cause strokes, kidney problems, pressure sores and skin problems, low blood pressure, dizziness, delirium and increased risk of falls.

Again, the reasons for poor hydration are similar to malnutrition: poor habits, lack of thirst, lack of access to drinks, lack of adaptive equipment, cognitive impairment, and fear of falling or incontinence.

Poor Mental Health

18% of people aged 65+ suffer from depression caused by isolation, loneliness, grief, money worries, poor health and living conditions, loss of independence and a sense of self. It presents in many forms, from physical to mental ailments, including delirium.

For those who become hospitalised, poor mental health can lead to more significant physical health problems.

older man drinking a glass of water

The Average Length of Hospitalisation Among the Elderly

A paper for The Health Foundation found that those aged 85+ will stay an average of 12.5 days in hospital after an emergency admission (Francesca Cavallaro et al., 2023). Younger people (65-84) have a shorter average of 10.2 days.

Many extended stays are simply due to the limited capacity of family care, social care, and NHS community services. At Home Instead, we see this as a critical reason to increase awareness of private home care services like ours. We bridge the gaps in these care provisions, supporting carers and their loved ones.

How Hospital Stays Affect the Elderly

Extended stays can have anegative impact on older adults. Those who are bedridden are more likely to suffer physical deconditioning, leading to the increased risk of falls, as well as sleep deprivation, depression and further infection.

In our experience, those discharged into well-considered home care services recover much quicker. Their clinical, physical, mental, and emotional needs are met, which gives them a much higher chance of recuperating and returning to their previous state. The NHS agrees, which is why you will have seen an increased budget for NHS care-at-home programs and relationships with providers like Home Instead.

older lady lying and waiting in hospital bed

How We Think Hospital Admissions Can Be Reduced

In our view, many elderly hospital admissions could be avoided by:

  • Better hygiene
  • Improved nutrition
  • Reducing fall risks
  • Companionship and social interaction
  • Mobility or cognitive function exercise
  • Condition-led support
  • Condition-specific equipment
  • And ultimately, more carer support and education

We have specifically tailored our home care and live-in care services to provide help with each aspect based on individual clients.

Avoiding Hospital Admissions: Tips for Supporting the Elderly Living at Home

To help you, we’ve asked our Watford care professionals and managers to compile some tips for your care routine. These will help you manage general health and spot minor issues before they become potential hospital admissions.

home instead care professional helping a client sit up in bed

1. Encourage exercise to improve body strength, balance, and cardiovascular health. A great way to start is with chair exercises and light walking. If your loved one isn’t keen on exercising, try enjoying something physical that they do like, like dancing. The most important thing is to keep moving.

2. Create an eating schedule. Keep to the same time each day with exciting healthy options.

3. Keep drinks accessible. Remember that hydration levels will naturally change throughout the year, and your loved one may occasionally need reminding to drink more.

4. Encourage the use of aids. Walking aids, hearing aids, eating aids, and cooking aids are all designed to help us do things. While your loved one might not be excited about them, they can help reduce risks. Try to introduce them positively, show their benefits, and remove the stigma around using them.

5. Create a calendar for your loved ones and those who care for them. Pop it in a visible place so that everyone can see which routines happen when. Remember to keep updating it.

6. Establish a detailed night-time routine. Good sleep is essential for general health, mental capacity and avoiding falls. Remember to keep this plan visible so everyone, including your care pros, understands what’s needed.

7. Keep brains active. Brain training activities such as crossword puzzles, online programs, and reading are a great way to encourage cognition.

8. Consider how to be social even if you are stuck at home. Consider creative activities such as arts and crafts, listening to or playing music, attending local groups, gardening, and knitting—things you can do together. These provide a healthy mix of brain stimulation and social interaction.

9. Think dementia. Plan activities a person with dementia enjoys and can do, such as what they liked to do when they were younger or looking through memory books. Mental and cognitive stimulation is always helpful for those with dementia, and often, activities they love provide happy endorphins as well as interaction.

10. Cook and clean together. Make it easy for your loved one to do supervised activities without feeling like they are being supervised. We want to keep this activity light, fun, and social while keeping it safe. We also want to encourage independence.

11. Maintain good eye contact when talking with your loved one. As we age, communication can sometimes become challenging. Direct eye contact allows us to relay information to people who are hard of hearing, give visual cues to those with cognitive impairments, and spot potential difficulties our loved ones face.

Contact us at Home Instead Watford (01923 250513) if you are interested in home-based care for your loved one. Our home care services are a flexible and reliable option.