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Latest research shows that elderly people who partake in leisure activities more than 20 times on a weekly basis are less likely to develop delirium after surgical procedures.

Post-surgical delirium is a common complication in the older people. The term refers to sudden changes in the mental function induced by drugs, infection, electrolyte imbalance, immobilization etc. after surgery.  Elderly people are more likely to develop delirium, dementia and even death following major surgeries. This research has demonstrated that engaging in pleasurable activities lessens the chances of developing this preventable condition. 


Study Design

The research was carried out by a team of experts from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. The purpose of the research was to find out whether indulging in the activities that reduce the chances of memory loss also help in decreasing the odds of post-surgical delirium. The results of this study were subsequently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
During the course of this prospective cohort study, the researchers examined 142 elderly patients who were due to undergo major surgical procedures for hip, knee and spinal injuries at the Montefiore Medical Center Orthopedics outpatient clinics. These patients were inquired whether or not they indulged in relaxing activities such as gardening, book reading, cross word puzzle solving etc.

 
Results 

The results showed that forty five participants (about 32% of the subjects) who partook in the research developed post-surgical delirium following the operative interventions. These figures were adjusted for age, sex, co-morbid conditions and baseline cognition. All of these 32% patients participated in lesser leisure activities as compared to those patients who actively engaged in leisure activities. 
It was demonstrated that playing computer games, book reading and emailing were the activities that reduced the chances of post-surgical delirium to the greatest extent. Singing and playing computer games were the activities that lessened the severity of post-surgical delirium. It was shown that every day which is spent being involved in leisure activities decreases the odds of developing post-surgical delirium by almost 8%. 
It was postulated that participating in such pleasurable activities increase the “cognitive reserve” in the elderly population since if the brain is used more, it results in improvement of brain functions. Thus, taking part in enjoyable activities is beneficial for the older people, making them less prone to develop dementia and other forms of cognitive deficit, specifically, post-surgical delirium. 


Recommendations

The researchers recommended taking an active part in pleasurable activities such as knitting, reading newspapers and books, playing cards and other such games or socializing since they can have a positive impact on the brain functions and can help prevent post-surgical delirium, thereby preserving the brain functions. 
It was proposed that engaging in leisure activities can be taken up as a prophylactic measure in patients who are about to undergo a surgical intervention. Mass level education can help the older people avoid the common complication of postsurgical delirium. 
These activities can, therefore, improve the life expectancy linked with major operations in the elderly population in order to age in a healthy way and to avoid the morbidities associated with old age. 

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