Meadowlands Gives Elderly Patient Second Chance
Doctors keep elderly moving in rehabilitation, not hospital bed
When a frail, elderly Carlos Irimia of West New York arrived at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, he had lost his ability to walk, even stand, and appeared confused. The 91-year-old had deteriorated rapidly during his lengthy stay at another hospital.
Dr. Raphael Enukashvili, the internal medicine specialist who saw the patient after he was transferred to Meadowlands, had seen this before. He immediately knew what was wrong.
“Often the worst place for a frail elderly person is a hospital bed,” said Dr. Enukashvili. “The medical data show that more than two-thirds of these patients de-compensate when they are hospitalized. They can lose function and experience an altered mental state.”
Dr. Enukashvili thoroughly evaluated Mr. Irimia. The doctor changed some medications and then transferred the patient to the Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute.
At the institute, rehabilitation specialists worked to get Mr. Irimia walking again, and they helped him regain lost functions, such as the ability to eat and care for himself. Special emphasis is given to strengthening the spirit as well as the mind and body.
“I could see my father getting better physically and mentally almost immediately,” said his daughter, Esther Del Pino.
Dr. Enukashvili said the patient, like many elderly patients, also was treated for several existing physical ailments, such as diabetes, heart disease and an infection. But the doctor said the physical ailments did not fully explain the patient's rapid deterioration and inability to talk and function.
“These can be perplexing cases, knowing what to prioritize and treat first. At Meadowlands we transfer these patients, when possible, to a more appropriate setting, such as the specialized rehabilitation institute here at the hospital,” Dr. Enukashvili. “If elderly people lose functioning after being in a hospital bed too long, they have to learn everything over again, like how to stand and walk.”
He said the hospital's length of stay is below the national average, a statistics that is good for patients.
Mr. Irimia is home now – and not in a nursing home, an outcome the family once thought inevitable. “He is himself again. I am so happy to have my father back home, cooking and being the boss of the house,” said Ms. Del Pino.
At his home, Mr. Irimia jokes that he has to help around the house. “If I knew I was going to get such a hard time at home, I would have stayed at the hospital,” he said.