When a loved one wakes up in the middle of the night with abdominal pain, a caretaker’s first instinct is often a trip to the emergency room, followed by scheduling surgery. Sure, it can be scary, but hospitals typically help families feel more secure due to the assumption their loved one will leave in better shape than when they went in. Nevertheless, a recent study published by The Annals of Surgery reveals how surgery can actually increase the mortality rate and use of invasive interventions among nursing home residents compared to independent seniors.
The main problem isn’t the surgery itself, but the additional instruments needed for recovery. For instance, many nursing home residents require mechanical ventilators, feeding tubes, or internal heart monitors post-procedure. That means more time in the hospital, and less time enjoying the comforts of home. Another issue is the body’s decreased ability to restore itself overtime. So while the initial kidney, stomach, or liver illness was resolved, there are new ailments from the surgery itself to deal with.
Consequently, researchers from the study encourage families and doctors to evaluate what’s more important: extending a loved one’s life or maintaining its quality. This isn’t meant to be an easy decision, but if you conclude that making sure your elderly mother or spouse preserves their independence is top priority, your best bet is to explore alternative methods. Should they fail, schedule surgery.