To determine for each basic, instrumental, and mobility activity after hospitalization for acute medical illness: (1) disability prevalence immediately before and monthly for 6 months after hospitalization; (2) disability incidence 1 month after hospitalization; and (3) recovery time from incident disability during months 2 to 6 after hospitalization.
Prospective cohort study.
New Haven, Connecticut.
A total of 515 community-living persons, mean age 82.7 years, hospitalized for acute noncritical medical illness and alive within 1 month of hospital discharge.
Disability was defined monthly for each basic (bathing, dressing, walking, transferring), instrumental (shopping, housework, meal preparation, taking medications, managing finances), and mobility activity (walking a quarter mile, climbing flight of stairs, lifting/carrying 10 pounds, driving) if help was needed to perform the activity or if a car was not driven in the prior month.
Disability was common 1 and 6 months after hospitalization for activities frequently involved in leaving the home to access care including walking a quarter mile (prevalence 65% and 53%, respectively) and driving (65% and 61%). Disability was also common for activities involved in self-managing chronic health conditions including meal preparation (53% and 41%) and taking medications (41% and 31%). New disability was common and often prolonged. For example, 43% had new disability walking a quarter mile, and 30% had new disability taking medications, with mean recovery time of 1.9 months and 1.7 months, respectively. Findings were similar for the subgroup of persons residing at home (ie, not in a nursing home) at the first monthly follow-up interview after hospitalization.
Disability in specific functional activities important to leaving home to access care and self-managing health conditions is common, often new, and present for prolonged time periods after hospitalization for acute medical illness. Post-discharge care should support patients through extended periods of vulnerability beyond the immediate transitional period.

© 2020 The American Geriatrics Society.