Chronic bronchitis is a common reason for admitting an old person to hospital. Government statistics measure the impact of admission only in terms of mortality. A follow-up study of disability among the elderly admitted to hospital wih an exacerbation of chronic bronchitis is described. One month after discharge about 30% of patients were unable to walk as far on the flat or climb as many steps as they did before admission and 90% were unable to do all previous household chores or social activities. After a further two months, although the proportion of patients unable to do all previous household chores or social activities had decreased significantly the proportion with restricted ambulation or ability to climb stairs had not decreased. The proportion of patients admitting to anxiety or depression and being dissatisfied with their progress also remained high. We conclude that there is a need for graduated rehabilitation programmes, which have been shown to increase the walking distance of elderly bronchitics, to be extended to cover all aspects of disability and for home rehabilitation to become an integral part of the care of all elderly bronchitics discharged from hospital.
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