The notion that a hospital remains the safest place for old patients dies hard. Many families still believe their aging relatives belong in a hospital when they're ailing. But 20-plus years of research have documented the risks of hospitalization for older adults, particularly those frail or ill enough to need nursing home care. In hospitals, old people fall. They contract stubborn infections. They can develop delirium from unfamiliar surroundings and drugs, and bed sores and loss of conditioning from inactivity. They lose functional abilities, including cognitive skills, that they may never regain, especially if they're already sliding into dementia.