When someone is discharged from the hospital, it doesn’t mean they are 100 percent back to their previous state. In fact, many studies have shown that the hospital-to-home transition is when a patient is at their most vulnerable. It’s difficult to know how to help patients transition smoothly, both mentally and physically, through this time. Here, we will run through what everyone needs to know in order to avoid the pitfalls of transitioning to home after a hospital visit.
Many facilities provide discharge planning services. Dedicated staff members and teams will help patients by developing a care plan for their after hospital care. This plan will include the details that caregivers and family members need to ensure that the patient’s health continues to improve once they are home. Transportation should be part of this plan. Help will be needed to go to the pharmacy and doctor’s appointments. Often hospital discharge planners know of every community service available and are a good resource for information.
For loved ones or caretakers, it’s important to be as informed as possible about a senior’s illness. This means being aware of the medications being taken prior to being admitted to the hospital, and what possible interactions may occur with newly prescribed drugs taken after discharge.
If a senior is not able to transport themselves, a transportation network needs to be identified that can pick up prescriptions and take the senior to follow-up doctor visits. Whether this means employing community services, or simply a friend or loved one, don’t leave it to the last minute.
Where a senior stays after the hospital discharge can also present issues and decisions that need to be made.
If a senior is going home, determine if any changes need to be made to that environment. A senior may require crutches or a wheelchair. In that case, throw rugs present a trip and fall hazard and should be removed. Similarly, pets that like to jump up may have to be contained to a certain room, or stay with someone else for the immediate rehabilitation period. Assistive devices may have to be installed in the home, such as grab bars in the bathroom or a wheelchair ramp to the front door.
As important as any other preparation is the management of expectations – both the patient’s and the caretakers. A family member taking on the duties of caring for a senior may not be fully aware of what caregiving entails. It can be a full time job in addition to their own work and family at home. The costs may be overwhelming, especially if certain treatments are not covered by Medicare. For the senior themselves, expecting a full return to their health immediately upon leaving the hospital may simply be unrealistic.
While this can be a difficult time, knowledge is power and it can create a smoother course of recovery for everyone involved.