BACKGROUND: The transition between hospital and home is a vulnerable period for acutely hospitalized older patients during which they are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes. Yet, studies describing experiences of a geriatric patient population postdischarge from a patient perspective are missing.
OBJECTIVE: To characterize patient experiences with recovering at home after acute hospitalization.
DESIGN AND METHODS: Qualitative semi-structured interviews, involving 20 recently discharged patients (age ≥ 70), were conducted. A thematic analysis of the content was performed.
RESULTS: Ten categories were identified as recurring topics, which were grouped into 3 major themes. The first theme describes the effect of hospitalization on daily life. Participants described that the problems they encountered were mostly caused by symptoms they experienced since discharge, which were grouped into 2 themes: (a) physical consequences of hospitalization and (b) motivational and psychological problems after hospitalization. Among most frequently presented symptoms were fatigue, apathy, unsteadiness while standing, and fear of falling.
IMPLICATIONS: Impairment in mobility and instrumental activities of daily living was the dominant experience for interviewed patients. This disability was mainly attributed to four main symptoms: fatigue, apathy, unsteadiness while standing, and fear of falling. We propose a tentative model that summarizes the role of posthospital symptoms in the recovery process and the potential syndromes (frailty, posthospital syndrome, palliative symptoms, and sickness behavior) that could underlie these shared symptoms which may act as a conceptual framework for future research. Our study points at the relevance of symptom experiences in functional recovery postdischarge.